So a game about a deadly hitman working for a shadowy company should be pretty easy to adapt, right? No need for fantasy elements or big sci-fi set pieces, just a simple thriller, right? Well, that’s right! … Sadly, the emphasis was very much on the simple, and less on the thriller. Yes, for a film titled “Hitman” it very quickly became “generic action movie anti-hero loudly gunning people down in broad daylight”. Still, is it worth a look?
Interpol agent Mike Whittier arrives home and is met at gunpoint by Agent 47. The two talk about 47’s life as a professional hitman, raised and trained by a mysterious paramilitary group known simply as “the Organization” and his recent uncharacteristic actions in Moscow…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“You know, I might just hit a man tonight, IF you know what I mean…”
I mean, it terms of the action scenes, it could be worse. In 2007 some critics complained it was “overly gory” but in a post John Wick world Hitman seems right at home… well, that’s where the comparison ends, admittedly, but still. There were some actual hits at the start of the film, and a few hand to hand (or large knife to large knife) fights between Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) and other agents throughout the film that were entertaining.
Excluding a weird fourth wall breaking moment where some kids are playing a Hitman game as Agent 47 runs past them, there were some actual fun nods here, mostly a few scenes where the titular Hitman wears a disguise or hides some bodies in a crate. That stuff at least made this feel like an adaptation of the game…
Quick, create some nice policeman characters! We can’t just have a stoic Hitman as out lead!
I don’t know how much of this film is bad as much as it is rather boring. Agent 47 is barely established as a hitman before he’s betrayed by his own people and goes on the run, the Russian President (Ulrich Thomsen) being his latest victim. Mysteriously that same President appears on TV giving a speech, but this turns out to be a body-double that had plastic surgery to look like him. Either way Agent 47 is set up to kill an innocent woman who knows the truth called Nika (Olga Kurylenko) but catches on to the whole thing and goes on the run with her, determined to “finish his job”.
While this is going on he’s being chased by a pair of British Interpol agents, Mike Whitter (Dougray Scott), the “been hunting this guy for years, I know him better than he knows himself” cop-type, and Jenkins (Michael Offei) who is pretty much a comedy guy to Mike’s straight man. The duo also have to deal with corrupt Russian agents who are in on the conspiracy to replace Russia’s President with a body double who I assume is more in line with their way of thinking, and in fact it was them who hired the hit on the original President in the first place.
It’s not a bad set up really, and as I said there were a few good bits and set pieces, but in the end the way Agent 47 deals with the situation is to kill the original President’s drug, women and weapons dealing brother in order to lure the double out in the open to attend the funeral, then tie up one of the corrupt Russian agents and make it so if he doesn’t instruct the hitman he hired to kill Agent 47 to instead try and kill and double he’d be killed, and then when the other hitman fails to kill the double a disguised Agent 47 takes the fake to a private room and kills him (after a quick fight with another agent). Then a helicopter shoots up the room for no other reason than I guess they felt the ending wasn’t exciting enough. It’s a little convoluted, plus Mike Whitter ends up taking 47 into custardy thanks to a key he found in the agent’s luggage in a rather unlikely series of events and then he escapes anyway with the help of the CIA, which doesn’t help the silliness.
A perfectly respectable establishment, I’m sure…
This brings me to a pet peeve: the film opens with a scene set after all of this, with 47 meeting with Whitter in the latter’s home, then tells the story before we catch back up and see that 47 instead has faked his own death and let Whitter go. All that achieved was to let us know two main characters will be absolutely fine by the end of the movie, and so I just never get that story structure idea. I’ll also mention that a lot of the story is the old cliché of “stone-hearted hitman has to look after woman who falls for him”, which at least doesn’t actually end with Agent 47 walking off for a civilian life with her, so it didn’t go “full cliché”, but it got close enough at times, and given the film wasn’t good enough to cover it, well…
Generally, it has to be said that the acting was fine all round, but nobody stood out as actually good. Olyphant’s 47 got the stoic-ness down, but sadly everyone around him was kind of dull as well, so it meant the whole film kind of felt dull, even despite the action scenes. No characters got any real development either, which again can be covered for in action films if the action is great and the characters are fun and engaging, but… that’s not the case, sadly.
The Hitman protects the girl, classic!
Hitman could have been a perfectly fine, if not generic, action film had the cast been more charismatic and a bit more care gone into the plot. As it stands it has some perfectly good action set pieces and fight scenes, but everything in between is either dull, cliché, or a dull cliché. Not the worst action film you’ll see, but far from the best…