Inexplicable things happen in movies all the time – and I’m not talking about stuff like obtaining superpowers from a genetically modified spider or giant monsters leveling entire cities during some ancient grudge match. No, I’m talking about the making of movies and more specifically which movies actually get made and for every potential film that writhes in the fires of development hell and every worthy sequel that fails to appear (no Edge Of Tommorow sequel, yet? Really?), we get industrial level bilge like Hitman: Agent 47. While I’m still awaiting a government enquiry into the reasoning of how and why someone deemed 2007’s stunningly pointless Hitman a worthy film to sequelize/reboot, I thought I’d callously murder some time by actually sitting down to give it a shot and see if the producers had actually learned any lesson from the original video adaptation. An hour and forty minutes later, any good natured curiosity I had lay garrotted in the bathroom of a European airport…. oh well.
We rejoin Agent 47 for the first time (reboot humour) as he goes about his usual murderous business, but this time his motives initially seem darker than the usual reasons he has for coldly murdering people in their dozens. His target is Katia Van Dees, a perpetually anxious young woman with a shadowy past who dulls her panic-inducing hyper-awarness with meds while desperately searching the world for her missing geneticist father. Her searching has so far resulted in zip, but one day she’s approached by the mysterious “John Smith” (everyone’s mysterious in this fucking film) who takes liberally from the book of Kyle Reese and tells her that she’s being stalked by a relentless killer who is more than human. It turns out that Katia isn’t the only person looking for her dad and after a series or remarkably samey gun battles and weirdly edited fist fights, she finds herself in the clutches of Agent 47 who blows her world wide open with some timely revelations – her father was the one who created the Agent programme in the first place and thus is responsible for various super powered bald men in red ties killing people for money all over the globe. Hired by men to find him in order to re-start the programme, Agent 47 elected to let Katia do the leg work for him but intervened when Smith – who is also a genetically tweaked killer – stepped in in order to save her life. He immediately backs this up by tying her to a chair in front of an enormous, running, jet engine (?) in an attempt to kick start the latent super-abilities she also has by epically throwing her in at the deep end – that’s right, thanks to her dad, it turns out that not only Katia Van Dees is an Agent too (quatre-vingt-dix is 90 in French – get it?), but she is an upgrade with even greater abilities than 47 himself. Joining forces against the (here’s that word again) mysterious corporation known as The Syndicate and the apparently unkillable John Smith, 47 and Katia continue the search for her father in an attempt to stop his research being abused once and for all.
Whether Hitman: Agent 47 is better or worse than it’s dreary predecessor is a question that’s as redundant as it is stupid – but for argument’s sake (and the fact that I have to fill this article with something) let’s discuss what (if anything) Agent 47 does better than the first movie. The short answer is, well, nothing – but if you where to put a gun to my head and demanded an answer then the replacing of Timothy Olyphant with Rupert Friend turns out to be beneficial due to his razor sharp bone structure allowing him to look more like than his predecessor did. It doesn’t mean he gives a better performance though and once again filmmakers seem to struggle with the concept that the reason a lot of first/third person video game characters lack personality is that they’re being played by you – hence the legion of cold, monosyllabic avatars this genre of game puts out and when you transfer that non-personality to a film it just comes across as bland and robotic.
Speaking of robotic, the entire first half of the film elects to try and play the same mind games James Cameron played in the first Terminator, with two lethal killers trying to find an important female target before the other as Friend and his opposite number Smith (played for some reason by Zachary Quinto) try to keep you guessing who is the bad guy and vice versa. However, while it’s admirable that the film tries to mix things up a little, it’s somehow forgotten that there’s already another Hitman movie out there that blatantly features him as – wait for it – the good guy, so any tension is completely and utterly lost.
While Friend and Quinto struggle to find a way to inject some charisma into their emotionless characters and fail miserably (and let’s not forget Quinto’s successfully played Spock for fuck’s sake), their poorly edited fight scenes suggest that their stunt doubles may have spent more time on set than they did. Meanwhile, in the era of John Wick, the awkwardly staged gun fights where people simply stand still and let bad guys run into their gunfire comes across as inexcusably lazy even though various stuntmen must have worked their butts off.
The usual, jobbing character actors are deployed into the usual supporting roles – Ciarán Hinds, Jürgan Prochnow and Thomas Kretschmann all dutifully pick up their pay checks and move on – and not a single one makes any kind of impact whatsoever.
So forgettable you start to find the movie slipping from your memory as you watch it (despite a scene where a supercar gets harpooned in place that curiously predates the 8th Fast & Furious), Agent 47’s unnecessary return is yet another burst of the continually friendly fire that constantly keeps the Video Game genre helplessly wriggling on it’s back like an upended turtle.
Hitman: Agent 47 decisively proves that you can’t spell assassin without ass….