A film review by Craig J. Koban August 29, 2015



2015, R, 96 mins.


Rupert Friend as Agent 47  /  Zachary Quinto as John Smith  /  Hannah Ware as Katia van Dees  /  Thomas Kretschmann as Le Clerq  /  Ciarán Hinds as Dr. Litvenko

Directed by Aleksander Bach  /  Written by Skip Woods and Michael Finch

HITMAN: AGENT 47 is yet another entry on a woefully long list of pathetically awful video game to movie adaptations that’s not even really trying that hard to be good.  

It’s a reboot, I guess, of the 2007 Timothy Olyphant starring adaptation of the stealth video game action series developed by Eidos Interactive and now published by Square Enix.  I enjoyed playing what little I have of those games – which featured a cloned and everlastingly stoic assassin for hire that takes out high valued targets with surgical precession – but there was rarely a moment that I enjoyed watching this new cinematic version.  It’s fitting that the game series is about a genetically engineered and emotionless killing machine; HITMAN: AGENT 47 is about as manufactured and soulless as its titular character. 

There are so many inherent problems with this film that I frankly grew dizzy just pondering them before I wrote this review.  HITMAN: AGENT 47 was inexplicably co-written by Skip Woods, the same man that penned the 2007 version, begging the question as to why would you bother with a fresh reboot with the same writer.  That, and the makers of this new movie seem to have very little fundamental understanding of what made the HITMAN video game series tick.  Those games emphasized lingering and working from within the shadows in clandestine missions to take out  intended targets.  The Hitman in this film is more like the Terminator than a stealthily lethal force, mowing down wave after wave of enemies in a blood-spewing maelstrom of gun blazing glory.  Worse yet is that HITMAN: AGENT 47 gorges on so much middling to dreadful CG augmentation of its action sequences that it borders on being unintentionally hilarious.  The film's second unit director was JOHN WICK co-director David Leitch, but it just as well might have been credited to a computer as you never gain a sense of the style and panache that he brought to that brutally efficient Keanu Reeves thriller. 



Even more dismal are the attempts here at basic storytelling and character dynamics, both of which are hopeless AWOL in this film.  Agent 47 (Rupert Friend, a good headstrong actor that looks mostly confused and irritated throughout most of the film) is an engineered killing machine that was birthed in a lab by a super secret organization looking to create the ultimate perfect weapon (an organization that's so secret that the film’s screenplay never really fleshes them out to any intriguing levels).  It appears that project leader Dr. Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds) has disappeared with the blueprints to make more hitmen, which makes him a highly valuable target to the wrong kind of nefarious people.  Agent 47 is tagged by his handler to locate the daughter of the doctor, Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware), whom also has been desperately searching for her father before enemies of the agency can nab him and start manufacturing their own ruthless killers. 

As for the villains in this film?  Agent 47, Katia and her father are perused by Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann) who wants the agent program and Dr. Litvenko’s knowledge to perfect his own agent-cloning program.  In the midst of all of this chaos is another secret agent named “John Smith” (Zachary Quinto, enunciating his one note, cookie cutter dialogue with a gravel voiced tenor that’s supposed to be chilling, but more or less feels forced and distracting) that initially seems like a protector of Katia, but then later shows his true colors and ends up being her pursuer.  As Agent 47 finally connects with Katia the proverbial chase is on, leading to both of them eluding capture by Smith’s goon squad, but along the way – wouldn’t ya know it? – Katia begins to display a particular set of gifts that makes it sure as hell appear that she too was a product of the agent program.  With this revelation, Agent 47 sees Katia as a valuable – a potentially lethal – ally in the search for her father. 

HITMAN: AGENT 47 is a monumentally dumb and silly movie that just happens to take itself as serious as a heart attack.  The overall solemnity of the film inspires frequent chuckles.  Beyond that, there are simply no characters in this film that deserve our rooting interest.  Are we supposed to care about Agent 47, Katia, or her father?  They’re never distinguished in the screenplay as being personas to truly feel for in any legitimate way…other than the fact that the script tells us that we’re supposed to care.  The film also places these cardboard cutouts masquerading as people within a narrative that’s as murky as it is ludicrous.  Sometimes, even earthbound logic seems to escape the “reality” of this film.  Take, for example, Katia’s “powers” (if you can call them that): Throughout the film she begins to harness her radar-esque Spidey sense of danger that warns her of impeding doom from literally miles away.  How does this work and why does it work only when the screenplay deems it convenient?  At times, she’s able to conjure up her Force-like powers to get herself and Agent 47 out of any predicament, but then at other times she’s almost a helpless damsel in distress that can be knocked out cold.  It’s just stupid...and I just wished that this film embraced its stupidly. 

Beyond its moronic plotting, the action we are left with here should have been the main selling points of another HITMAN entry.  Regrettably, and as previously mentioned, HITMAN: AGENT 47 replaces what should have been some rough, rugged, and viscerally relatable violence and mayhem with CG tinkering that looks sloppily constructed in nearly every scene it’s utilized.  From pixelized geysers of blood and brain matter to horrendously obvious and unconvincing computer rendered stunt doubles that flip-flop over cars and crash land on the ground on impact, HITMAN: AGENT 47 looks more like a first pass VFX demo reel than a fully realized motion picture.  The more times you see Agent 47 defy the laws of physics in scene after scene of choppy and awkwardly staged action the more times I checked my watch out of boredom.  By the time the film reaches its unavoidable conclusion – pitting all heroes and villains against one another in a massive winner-take-all donnybrook – I felt feelings of pitiful exhaustion and apathy.  

HITMAN: AGENT 47 is all mindless sound and fury ultimately signifying nothing, frequently reflecting the barest of minimal efforts by director Aleksander Bach (making his feature filmed debut here) to produce a polished final product worthy of a large scale theatrical release.  His resulting film here feels like an aggressively putrid 90-plus-minute trailer that’s void of likeable characters, an enthralling story, and an overall reason for existing in the first place.  I simply just didn’t care about anyone or anything here.  Die hard action film devotees may get their kicks out of HITMAN: AGENT 47 as an easily digestible and easily forgettable action thriller, but for the rest of viewers out there the film is incoherent, messy, hollow and dead on arrival.  The only thing that this video game adaptation lacks is a controller in the theatre chair with a much needed reset button.    

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