This Week’s Movies: “Hitman”

January 9, 2008

And the latest entry in the “based on a bestselling videogame” genre is Hitman, a movie so devoid of style, intelligence, or even basic filmmaking competence that it makes Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever look like Lawrence of freakin’ Arabia. A world-spanning story of action and intrigue, Hitman desperately aspires to be The Bourne trilogy’s ‘roided-up brother. Instead it’s more like Bourne’s mentally-retarded cousin.

Hollywood has apparently decided it’s a good idea to make video games into movies. This is a bit perplexing since Hollywood’s been screwing up adaptations of books for the better part of a century, and books have things like plot, characterization, and drama already built in. Videogame adaptations force Hollywood to create that stuff and, as this blog should have taught you by now, creativity isn’t Hollywood’s strong suit.

The filmmakers accountable for Hitman have chosen to fill this void with…well…not a whole lot. I could understand (though not forgive them) if they chose to simply amp up the action sequences to make up for the dearth of storytelling substance, but even the action in Hitman is pretty “meh.” There are some unrealistic gunfights and a few kinetic hand-to-hand sequences, but none have the gritty authenticity of the Bourne movies or even the fantasy stylization of action dreck like Ultraviolet.

Hitman follows the adventures of Agent 47—a covert assassin trained from birth by a shadowy organization known only as “The Organization” (are you blinded by the screenplay’s originality yet?). Agent 47, like all of The Organization’s agents, sports a shaved head with a large prominent barcode tattooed on the back of it. Apparently, The Org has a very unique definition of “covert.” They also have some quasi-religious connection as evidenced by a lot of hymn-ish sounding music on the soundtrack and crucifixion poses struck by 47, but the movie doesn’t expend a whole lot storytelling energy on this element. Why would they? It’s only the main character’s sole defining characteristic.

So 47 is hired to kill the President of Russia, which he does. Only later he’s told by his talking laptop (I don’t know, the movie didn’t explain this either) that the President isn’t actually dead and now he has to kill the Prez’s girlfriend who saw him perform the original hit. Considering 47 performed the hit with a sniper rifle from about a quarter-mile away, this seems suspicious, but the movie rushes ahead anyway, totally unaware that it’s already gone off the rails. Soon, 47 realizes that he’s being set up and sets out to kill everyone involved. But not before he grabs the slinky Russian chick he’s supposed to kill. Because…well, why not?

If this all seems reminiscent of the Bourne movies or any one of a dozen other espionage movies, let me assure you that the similarities are quickly drown out by the movie’s deafening stupidity. Most espionage thrillers are concerned with the whys and hows of their twisty plottings. Not so, Hitman which really just wants the good guy (ahem) to learn enough about the plot to make sure he kills the right bad guys.

Amid other inanities: the movie seems to think that Russia is a member of the EU; that Interpol has global investigative authority and headquartered in London; and that the audience needs to have it spelled out (via screen text) that London is England and St. Petersburg is in Russia.

After all this, it seems pointless to complain about the performances, and maybe a little unfair. After all, who could do anything with the ciphers this movie offers? But as 47, Timothy Olyphant does his usual teeth-grinding/head-imploding thing. As the sex appeal, Olga Kurylenko spends much of the movie in various states of undress. I’m pretty sure the irony of her character being pitiable because she’s sexual chattel (the Prez bought her for $300—apparently the dollar is strong someplace) when her only role in the film is to wear slinky dresses and be topless a lot was lost on everyone making this movie.

Finally, there is the money shot: the climactic shootout is topped by a massive Russian Hind gunship opening fire on 47’s position. Hind’s are truly miracles of aeronautics—essentially battleships with rotors. They’re great overkill for action movies. So what does Hitman do with its Hind? It shoots up a church, misses 47, then flies away? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? That’s it? No air-to-air combat? 47 doesn’t even shoot it down! Rambo shot his down. To trot out a lament that led to the creation of this blog way back in Black X-Mas: How do you screw that up?

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