Directed by: Xavier Gens
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper
First, the good news: There are worse movies adapted from video games. Of course, when 75 percent of your genre is directed by Uwe Boll, and the remainder consists of dreck like the painfully awful and plain old stupid Resident Evil series or Street Fighter (1994)—featuring a blonde Jean-Claude Van Damme trying his Van-damnedest to affect an American accent—then this is no great accomplishment. Now, the bad news: It’s still a video-game movie.
For those not in the know, the film is based on the Hitman series of video games, which revolve around a mysterious, baldheaded, suit-wearing assassin—trained by some clandestine group that takes young orphans, inexplicably shaves their heads and tattoos barcodes on the back of their melons—who runs around killing people for money. For those whose only prerequisite for liking this kind of movie is its faithfulness to the source material, then this film should be aces, since it features Timothy Olyphant as said killer, dressed to the nines and looking like the frontrunner in a Yul Brynner look-alike contest. For those looking for a little more in the way of originality, look elsewhere, since Hitman could’ve been called Every Action Movie Ever and wouldn’t have skipped a beat.
Screenwriter Skip Woods manages to dredge up every single genre cliché and stuff it into one movie, from the lone wolf—Olyphant’s supposedly legendary Agent 47—being double-crossed by his employers to the tireless Interpol agent (Dougray Scott) who’s hot on the trail of the mysterious 47. They even manage to fit in the old chestnut of the hooker (Olga Kurylenko, Paris, Je T’Aime) with a heart of gold. These are the kind of lame dramatics—as well as 47’s apparent and unexplained sexual confusion—that are supposed to pass for characterization. The film’s banal histrionics are more acceptable, however, than what Hitman tries to do when it isn’t contentedly hackneyed. What you get instead is a plot that twists and turns on itself in a phony attempt at complexity, which just becomes pointlessly confusing.
Nevertheless, as basic and trite as the movie is, it still had the potential to be mindless fun. Unfortunately, director Xavier Gens (Frontière(s)) apparently thought this opus was serious business, since the whole film is completely humorless. Worse, though Olyphant is normally a likable actor, being downbeat and sullen isn’t in his vocabulary. I guess it’s possible that the film’s Russian location (which we’re reminded of with title cards every time a scene changes) got the best of everyone involved. When some comic relief happens to pop up, it comes off as either awkward or corny (like a couple of kids actually playing the Hitman video game), or worse yet, a combination of both.
Gens has only the basic idea of how to film an action sequence, utilizing the good old shaky cam, “I can’t tell what’s going on, so it must be exciting” school of direction. Even worse, his idea of style is filling every single interior—from a five-star restaurant to an office building—with a haze of smoke, making the entire film look like it was shot inside a sauna.
For fans of the games simply looking for a big-screen adaptation of Hitman, there’s a good chance this will hit the spot. For everyone else, don’t get fooled into thinking Hitman is anything more than yet another video-game flick. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexuality and nudity.