Hitman: Agent 47 and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Aleksander Bach
Are we really back here again? Of ALL the video game franchises to get made into movies, of course we have to get ones based off a weak sauce Léon: The Professional. The Hitman games have always been fantastic and unique experiences which are the reasons why the series has endured for so long, but the story was never the selling point. Whatever lore was in those games just never connected with me and I never understood the point of making such a basic premise so complicated by including a cloning subplot and then an evil double at one point (I think) and whatever the hell else was going through IO Interactive’s heads when making those games. Not only that, but they already TRIED to make this work and it sure as hell didn’t the first time around. Why exactly are they bring THIS back to the silver screen when there are so many other games out there that aren’t already tainted by a poor adaptation? Could it be because they were genuinely inspired to do better this time around, or is it just another cynical cash grab off a recognizable franchise? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with a brief history of who the Agents are and how they were created which is strike one against this film, but we’ll get to that later. Dr. Litvenko (Claran Hinds) basically made the Captain America Super Solider Serum for… reasons, and it leads directly to the Agent program which turns regular dudes (or clones maybe?) into unstoppable bad ass assassins who don’t feel emotion (*cough* bullshit *cough*) and always get the job done. Dr. Litvenko however fears His own creations, and runs away to never be seen again. The company who was bankrolling him is uber pissed and spends the next twenty years looking for him and the daughter he abandoned (because reasons) without much success despite having access to ALL the cameras ever, but maybe their progress is stalled because Agents (or maybe just 47 specifically, played here by Rupert Friend) are wrecking their shit on a regular basis. Eventually though the evil organization called The Syndicate (I see they’ve continued the trend of shitty group names in this series a la The Organization) finds the guy’s daughter who JUST SO HAPPENED to finally show up on a single security camera, and so they track her ass down in Germany.
47 finds out about this, fucks some shit up, and then goes to Germany as well to either stop The Syndicate from killing her or to kill her himself because he’s apparently on an assignment to kill someone and they PURPOSEFULLY don’t tell us who the victim is. In Germany, we find out that the daughter (Katia played by Hannah Ware) has been searching for this MYSTERIOUS man from her past that she can’t seem to remember but has a picture of. It’s really not all THAT mysterious because we already KNOW that she’s the scientist’s daughter, but whatever. Stupid movie is stupid. We also find out that she’s got some sort of Spider Sense thing where she can take in A LOT of information very quickly which is probably gonna have some connection to 47 and her dad, and you can probably already guess what the deal is with her. Okay, so The Syndicate is after her as well as 47, but the first one to reach her is John Smith (played by Zachary Quinto) who’s working for the Syndicate and protects her from 47 as he shoots his way through Germany like a mother fucking Terminator as he tries to get his hands on her.
If you can’t tell already, this movie is astoundingly dumb with a script made up of nothing but clichés and contradictions. The story itself is pretty simple (and definitely not a Hitman story) but no one seemed to care enough to proofread the damn thing which leads to neigh constant confusion as things that we have been told (sometimes mere minutes beforehand) are ignored for no adequately explained reason. They also decided to make two groups here instead of one (The Syndicate and The Organization), so the people you would THINK would be the bad guy (The Organization which employs Agent 47), is actually kind of just a tertiary presence in the entire movie. This however raises so many questions, as in how The Organization got their hands on all the Agents when they weren’t the one to develop the Agent Formula!! Unless I’m mistaken (which is quite possible with a movie this convoluted), The Syndicate was the one to make the Agents, but can no longer do so since Dr. Litvenko ran off with the formula, and for some reason The Organization has the Agents they DID manage to make! HOW THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN!? Did ALL the Agents escape from The Syndicate and just walk up to some fledgling, poorly named, contract killer organization, ready to work on their own terms instead of as a slave to the OTHER poorly named contract killer organization (or super science business or whatever)? I mean clearly the two groups here are at odds considering 47 is wrecking The Syndicates shit on a regular basis (while still working for The Organization), but they never explain the connection these two groups have which HAS to exist in some capacity considering The Organization is using The Syndicates creations!!
I could go on an endless rant about the various stupid things in this movie (the Spock-1000, Agent 90, unexplained pills, Katia’s memory loss of her own damn father), but needless to say that everything involving words coming out of people’s mouth is fumbled about as badly as you can imagine. All that said… I liked the movie. Yeah, not my proudest admission considering how much I hate the story here, but it actually manages to pull itself together with clever and we’ll choreographed action sequences that are generously dispersed throughout its running time, and the OCCASIONALLY decent interactions between 47 and Katia when they aren’t talking about her dad, or The Syndicate, or their connected past which is total bullshit. For example, the clip in the trailers of Agent 47 in the interrogation room is only one small part of a larger siege on the German US embassy which is just as stupid as the interrogation scene implies. And yet, despite how much I scoffed at it in the trailers, it’s fun! It’s dumb as hell with the US military bring played for chumps, but it had momentum, decent cinematography, and a hell of a climax with 47 trying to snipe Katia and John from ridiculously far distances. It’s stuff like that, from the scene where they escape from a factory to the scene where they’re fighting their way through a parking garage, that elevates this movie from an awful mess to a somewhat enjoyable cluster fuck.
So what’s the takeaway of this film? Is this something you can just turn your brain off and enjoy as a visceral action experience instead of a cohesive narrative with interesting characters and a compelling story? The thing is that I loathe to let a movie pass simply on that criteria as it’s often used as an excuse for dreadful films to ignore criticism levied against it. What people don’t really seem to understand is that almost anytime some uses that excuse, it’s never for a movie that ACTUALLY works in the way that straightforward actions films are supposed to. Almost every time someone says that, the story is an active HINDRANCE to the movie rather than a simplistic device used to connect the action. Look at the Transformers films which MAY have decent CG fight scenes, but are completely unwatchable due to the terrible (and convoluted) story lines as well as characters who are genuinely unlikable. Those are not “turn off your brain” movie where you can focus exclusively on the action scenes for your enjoyment and are rather tortuous experiences with big budgeted actions scenes peppered in them. While I wouldn’t put this movie on the same level as a Transformers film (the humor works decently here and it’s not trying to be offensive or gross), it suffers from the same problem where the actions scenes are nice, but the story and context that informs them are actively harmful to the overall experience. To illustrate this point; cameras are a big part of this movie as The Syndicate can seemingly hack into every last one of them on the planet and find someone immediately after they appear on it. The thing is that Katia has only JUST become aware of the dangerous group that’s after her and only NOW is intentionally dodging them (when the movie remembers to make her) which makes you wonder why the hell it took so long for them to find her!! Is it cool the way she uses her environment to avoid the cameras? Sure, but it’s ultimately a meaningless scene because it doesn’t fit into the twisted narrative they’re trying to tell here.
While there are PLENTY of fingers to point here, I think the biggest mistake they made was trying to tie this into 47’s past which just over complicates things. As a character in the game, he’s not that interesting either but manages to be memorable because of his skills as an assassin and his unique look. What they should have done here (and I hope they do if this gets a sequel) is to make it more in line with a classic James Bond film. Just give him a mission to do, a reason to make this one unique from his previous missions (usually manifesting as the female character in these kind of movies) and then have him work towards completing it. You’d have your streamlined story that won’t get in the way of the action scenes, and you’d also have a character with a bit of mystique about him that you DEFINITELY want to maintain for a character with this little going on for his backstory.
Aside from the action scenes which definitely have their short comings, is there anything good about this film? Well as I said earlier, the scenes between 47 and Katia that aren’t part of the bigger picture can sometimes be enjoyable with 47 having a decent joke or two which you wouldn’t expect from his character. It gives him a bit of humanity and makes him a little bit more interesting as a character. Along those lines, Katia isn’t perfect in this movie, but she’s very capable, never gets kidnapped (expect for one scene you MIGHT be able to stretch as a kidnapping if you try), and she never has a romantic interest in 47. It’s VERY well done for this kind of movie, and she does end up being a likable character in this as well. Seriously! They’ve got two characters in here who I would like to see in another movie and both the actors (or at least their stunt workers) are definitely enjoyable to watch in the action scenes. Another thing that’s not AS good as those two, but I will give a bit of credit to, is Zachary Quinto. The guy is so above this material, but he seems to be enjoying himself as the Spock-1000 (or Wolver-Sylar) so while his character is a poorly written composite of every shitty henchman you’ve ever seen, the guy’s natural talent means he’s able to bring enough to the role to make it at least not painful to watch. He has a pretty good final fight at the end with Agent 47, and he’s also the final stinger in the middle of the credits. I doubt he’ll EVER come back to this franchise, but what they do with him at the end is very cheesy and a bit of fan service for the fans that can actually follow these games. Speaking of henchmen, while this sort of goes back to the actions scenes, I actually liked the hired goons here who were REALLY dumb throughout and made very obvious mistakes. It added a bit of humor whenever Agent 47 was able to outsmart them so easily.
So what’s today’s lesson everybody? Never EVER say “just shut off your brain and enjoy it”. If you feel a movie is that way, chances are that it’s actually a well thought out experience that was conscious about what kind of story would work best the movie they want to make. This movie does not succeed in doing that, but I will give it credit where it’s due in that the action scenes can be enjoyable and it might be worth watching as a goofy action flick. I remember so little about the last film, but I recall it being boring and I can safely say this movie was not that. It’s dumb and confusing, but it manages to be fun from time to time and while it may not be worth watching in a theater, it’s definitely worth checking out at least once. Sadly, that kind of makes it one of the better video game movies out there.
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