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Hitman
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2007

Format: Movie
By:   Xavier Gens (director), Skip Woods (writer)
Genre:   Video game adaptation / action flick
Released:   Nov. 21, 2007
Review Date:   November 28, 2007
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

"You're very charming when you're not killing people." – Nika

Video games and action movies have a lot in common. If they're done well, they're a fun diversion. Even average ones have their charms. Both usually have strong but not too deep protagonists who kick a lot of bad-guy ass. Thus, the Hitman series of games would seem to be a perfect fit for the big screen. In them, we have a cool looking assassin who zips around to exotic locales, meets interesting people, and kills them.

It sounds pretty simple, like a lot of action movies. All you should need is a cast and one of the game scenarios, and you're good to go. But most video game adaptatation (and action movies, too) are handed to newer directors. The movie's supposed "simplicity" means a newbie can learn the directing ropes. Sometimes this works, and sometimes we get Uwe Boll.

While Hitman isn't as bad as any of Boll's work, or DOA, it's no DOOM either.

Here's the skinny: A mysterious religious group trains kids to be top-notch assassins. We know the group is religious because in the trailers, a few monks wanderg around the dialog free training montage, and "Ave Maria" is on the soundtrack.

In said montage, we follow one kid, who grows up to be Agent 47 (Timothy "Deadwood" Olyphant), the best of them all. He has a flawless kill record, taking out dozens of (presumably) bad men.

At the start, Agent 47 is in St. Petersburg to assassinate the Russian president Mikhail Belicoff (Ulrich "Kingdom of Heaven" Thomsen). Then 47 is told that there is a witness, a girl named Nika (Olga Kurylenko), and Belicoff survived.

Another assassin lays in wait to kill them both. 47 grabs Nika and goes on the run. On his trail are more assassins, the Russian police and Interpol agent Whittier (Dougray "Dark Water" Scott). Whittier, it seems, has been after 47 for years, in much the same way Jack McGee pursued David Banner.

Hitman then becomes a road movie, as 47 tries to find out how Belicoff survived a lead sinus cleaning, and who set him up. 47 kills his way up a chain of informants so he can face off against the bad guys, Belicoff and his partner, FSB (what the KGB became after communism fell) agent Marklov (Robert "Prison Break" Knepper).

While he travels and shoots people, 47 opens up a bit to Nika. These slow scenes are the best and worst parts of the movie. As any fan of Deadwood can tell you, no one can do pissed off and smoldering better than Olyphant. He's a pretty good action hero, running around shooting bad guys who apparently got a shipment of Stormtrooper armor and painted them all black. Olyphant looks great in the character's trademark black suit with red tie, and exudes a rough charm.

The action scenes do indeed kick ass, and it's nice to have an action movie that remembers that when you shoot people, blood tends to fly out of them. This is no PG-13 shooter where people just yell and fall over. When 47 takes on Belicoff's brother Udre (Henry Ian "Lost, brotha" Cusick), he goes half the fight with blood spatter on his face. 47 has a great knife fight against three other assassins in a subway car that's all kinds of awesome. And there's a pretty cool ending.

The plot is needlessly overcomplicated. It drags as often as it kicks ass. The biggest problem is that Agent 47, like in the games, is a cipher. He was raised by monks, avoids sex and relationships, and is closed off emotionally. While this can be a great start for a character who opens up and becomes human, 47 never does. He's the same guy who started the flick, except for being grudgingly protective of Nika.

I left feeling ambivalent. I enjoy Olyphant as an actor. I enjoyed the bloody action (and Nika's many casual nude scenes). But the whole movie feels like the first 20 minutes to a movie.


Gary Mitchel writes the RevSF blog Squid Ink, which also sounds pretty simple.

 
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