I believe I am a pretty big video game fan. Being born in the 90s I grew up with a least one console in my home during my childhood years. One of my favourite franchises is the Hitman series, a long running stealth game franchise about being…. well a hitman. Be it the games, books or even the first Hitman film starring Timothy Olyphant (which is a guilty pleasure of mine), I love the franchise and it’s protagonist, so when I heard about a reboot I was all for it.
Hitman: Agent 47 stars Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Kretschmann and Ciaran Hinds and is directed by Aleksander Bach. The story follows Agent 47 (Friend) a genetically engineered clone who is out to stop an organisation known only as the Syndicate from obtaining a woman with very special skills.
As always, let’s start with the good. The best actors by far are Rupert Friend and Ciaran Hinds. I believe Friend is the best on-screen adaptation of 47, he looks the part with his shaved head and barcode tattoo, he walks and talks just like the character should and has the presence of “you-have-no-idea-who-you-just-messed-with”, which is something I felt Timothy Olyphant was lacking in his portrayal. Ciaran Hinds is also good in the film, playing a retired scientist who knows a lot more about 47s past that he’s letting on. To be honest Hinds is brilliant in basically any film he’s in. I mean, he made the second Tomb Raider film fun to watch.
The film at times looks stunning, especially when the third act rolls around and the characters head to Singapore. The camera swoops around the almost futuristic city, soaking in the beautiful architecture on display. A key scene in the third act takes place at the famous Gardens by the Bay is spectacular to look at, as well as a few shots of the amazing infinity pool at the Parkroyal at Pickering hotel. The finale, which takes place on top of a helipad, also uses the city for it’s stunning backdrop. These shots of the city at night are beautiful and it fits straight into the globetrotting story that Hitman is used to.
Now for everything else. The rest of the actors are appalling. Some, like Thomas Kretschmann just look bored with the material, others like Hannah Ware and Zachary Quinto are just hamming it up making bad dialogue sound even worse. Quinto is especially bad, giving off a wide-eyed mad dog look for most of the film. Ware is monosyllabic and her primary dialogue is just the f-bomb repeated at varying degrees of volume.
The fight scenes are also below par, feeling more like action for action’s sake. Shoddy CGI is used to make bodies crumple for long falls, barely hidden stunt doubles are used, and the camera is shaking around and cutting around ten times per second. When will directors learn that this doesn’t look good on screen? With the camera cutting every time there is an impact, the fights loses any sense of momentum and geography, to a point where during one scene I clocked out for a couple of minutes because I was so bored. The only fight scene that is worth any merit is at the end, where the film takes a leaf out of John Woo’s book by setting everything to slow-motion, giving 47 his two trademark silver pistols and letting us watch the almost balletic gunplay unfold, with some synchronised shooting finishing off the scene when a sidekick comes to help him.
Most of the film’s problems do come from the script, which feels like it’s been written by someone who was brought up solely on a diet of 80s and 90s action films starring either Schwarzenegger, Stallone or Van Damme. The writer, Skip Woods is the genius that also wrote the screenplay for films such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, A Good Day To Die Hard and the other Hitman film. While the film does have some fun little Easter eggs for fans of the franchise with recurring characters, locations and assignments from the games, as well as a few lines of funny throwaway dialogue to liven up some dead actions set pieces, the rest was a collage of action clichés that made me shake my head in disbelief.
It shouldn’t be hard to write a story for a good Hitman film. With hundreds of pages of great storytelling from both the games and the books, Skip Woods could have created something that was fun and enjoyable, or at least competent. There are gaping plot holes throughout the film, as well as some sub-plots that go nowhere apart from a few lines. There are even a few teasers and an end credit scene that hint at a possible sequel and franchise. Even as a die-hard Hitman fan, I am very apathetic about Hitman returning to the screen.
In conclusion, Hitman: Agent 47 is not just a generic action film with dull characters and shoddy fight scenes; it’s an insult to the character of Agent 47 and the people who created him.
Score: 2/10 The first film was better.