‘Hitman: Agent 47’ is Double-Barreled Boredom

GameStop, Inc.

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In 2007, a cinematic adaptation of the popular video game Hitman hit theaters with little to no fanfare. The story of a bald dehumanized killing machine with a barcode tattoo on the back of his head was quickly forgotten by audiences and fans of the game series, but, of course, there’s always someone in the studio hierarchy that sees a potential franchise languishing around which is why we’re staring down the barrel of Hitman: Agent 47, the wholly unnecessary reboot of a franchise that never was. The film by first-time director Aleksander Bach, and scripted by Skip Woods and Michael Finch, has as much life as a corpse with half its skull blown apart. This thing is barely twitching.

Years ago, Dr. Litvenko (Ciarán Hinds) oversaw a program that conditioned young men from birth, genetically modifying them to be faster, stronger, smarter, and emotionless, in order to create a perfect breed of assassins, known as “Agents.” But Litvenko has a moment of conscience, and disappears. Now a corporation with the ridiculously ominous name of the Syndicate, run by Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann), seeks to find Litvenko in order to restart the Agent program. Unable to find Litvenko, the Syndicate sets their sights on Litvenko’s daughter Katia Van Dees (Hannah Ware), who was bestowed with special powers in her youth by her father who remains a distant memory. Katia’s enhanced senses lead her to believe that something is wrong, and before Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) can catch up to her, she runs off with John Smith (Zachary Quinto), a super-agent from the Syndicate. It’s not long before Katia realizes that John is bad and Agent 47 is good, so she runs to Agent 47 to find her father and stop the Syndicate’s plans for reviving the Agent program.

One of the biggest problems affecting the 2007 version of Hitman is still present in the rebooted Agent 47 – simply, the character has no personality. Though Rupert Friend seems more comfortable playing the stoic hitman than Timothy Olyphant, it doesn’t negate the fact that character is defined primarily by his skill set which was bestowed to him by a test tube. Those very same flaws also applied to Katia, all of her talents preordained through genetic modification and nothing related to character development. In a similar manner to the also dismal American Ultra, Zachary Quinto is primed to give a lively performance as the villain but is constantly undermined by an underwritten script, one that deems him the bad guy out of convenience without delving any deeper than the surface.

It’d be easy to forgive the shortcomings of its main characters had Hitman: Agent 47 actually been entertaining. But the film isn’t entertaining, it’s a boring slog. The plot is overly convoluted, and in the early going it becomes increasingly difficult to follow what’s happening or why. The action scenes are chaotic in their presentation, as is the style at the time, and it liberally dabbles in visual incoherence. With the exception of a few kills of anonymous bad guys that are handled with a bit of gruesome glee, Agent 47 is such a serious affair containing minimal moments of humor.

By no means was I expecting Hitman: Agent 47 to be a masterwork, but it doesn’t live up to its own aspirations. Aleksander Bach does sneak in a few nice looking moments, including one fairly cool sequence that comes far too late in the film and feels out of place. But Bach can’t make the script by Woods and Finch work, confirming my long held suspicion that Skip Woods is probably the worst screenwriter working today. I don’t want to be mean, but there’s just an overwhelming amount of clichéd dialogue, including one line directly cribbed from Watchmen, on top of a poorly told story wrought with genre conventions. Hitman: Agent 47 also features the worst post-credits sequence in modern history, when an incredibly minor character is resurrected. I could not tell you the name of this character, and I laughed incredibly hard when this nothing character suddenly opened his eyes (I understand that it may be a tease for something related to the game, but it’s comically inept to those who don’t get it). Most of all, Hitman: Agent 47 confirms that there’s nothing much reboot here as what seems to make the game appealing doesn’t translate to the screen. Somebody needs to take a contract out on this series, because Hitman needs two in the brain just to be sure.

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