Friday, 7 December 2007
Directed by: Xavier Gens
Screenplay: Skip Woods
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott and Olga Kurylenko
Having never played the video game upon which the film is based, and rarely playing video games in general (unless you count Super Mario All Stars on the Super Nintendo), I had no expectations of Hitman living up to its source material. How the film compares to the game and how well it sticks to the concept, I cannot tell you but I can tell you that Hitman was a pleasant surprise (for the most part) and nowhere near as bad as some critics may have you believe. For a film based on a video game, Hitman was pretty darn good.
Timothy Olyphant (Die Hard 4) stars as Agent 47, a hitman for a shady agency who globe trots around the world taking out various high ranking officials and political personalities. Bald, muscular, tough and with a distinguishing bar code tattooed on the back of his head, Agent 47 is a no-nonsense killer who has honed his skills to perfection over many years of killing. His in the shadows existence is put into jeopardy when an eager Interpol agent (Dougray Scott) gets on his trail and proves a tenacious pursuer. Agent 47’s company also has other plans for him, plans that include setting him up and sending many other bald, bar-coded tattooed killers after him. With prostitute/ possible-love-interest/witness (Olga Kurylenko) in tow, Agent 47 goes on the run, attempting to stay alive, stay one step ahead of his pursuers and stay on target with his next hit.
While Hitman was “pretty darn good” it is by no means perfect, and certainly not very original in the story department. With shades of the Bourne series, the story of a ruthless killer going up against the establishment that trained him is hardly a breath of fresh air. However, with Xavier Gens’ flashy direction, dedicated leads, a bit more grit than usual and some solid action scenes, Hitman proves to be an entertaining ride. The European locations add a tasty flavour to the action and a pulsating score keeps it moving at such a lick you hardly have time to realize how absurd and convoluted the plot has become. Olyphant carries the picture, giving a strong and human performance as the killer who suddenly has to deal with his regimented life being turned upside down. Naysayers had doubts about him filling the shoes of the game’s character, but he fits the role perfectly bringing a little more depth than expected. Dougray Scott (MI2) is on fine form and actually looks like he is having fun playing the good guy for a change. Olga Kurylenko, who despite spending a good portion of the film semi-naked, also makes an impression as the impossibly sexy prostitute, Nika.
Xavier Gens (director of cult horror, Frontiere(s)) steers his first Hollywood picture with aplomb creating a couple of standout action scenes. Agent 47’s escape from a Swat infested hotel and an extended fight in and under a train with other assassins, are pulled off with skill and thankfully steer away from CGI enhancement. Mixing gunplay, swordfights and good old fisticuffs, the action is brutal and often bloody. Rumour has it the studio interfered and trimmed Gens original cut to make it a little less bloody. A shame really, as Hitman could have been a great opportunity to push the envelope and make a really adult action film. Still, it’s bloody enough and in these days of watered down everything, we should be thankful.
If there is a downside to the flick, it seems it has been just a bit too rushed. The film doesn’t look or feel as polished as the trailers suggest and while some sequences are well put together (the hotel action scene) others feel sloppy and rushed (the whole restaurant cum assassination scene). The pace and music do contribute to the adrenaline rush the movie is trying to achieve (it is a chase movie after all) but an extra ten minutes of running time wouldn’t have gone a miss. Those expecting a full origin story about Agent 47 may be disappointed also, as little time is given to his back-story and motivations, the narrative concerning itself more with chase/action/double-crossing element.
It may not be the most original action movie to come along but Hitman does provide an hour and half of solid entertainment. It’s got some appealing leads, a couple of tight action scenes and a genuinely fun ending. Hitman is recommended to those who can forgive its shortcomings (really, how does a guy wearing no shoes walk into a high priced clothes store and come out with a new suit?) and enjoy the high octane thrills it delivers (that awesome shootout in a night club). Here’s hoping a longer and more intense cut is released on DVD.