Hitman, based upon the hit video game franchise of the same name, contains just about everything you’d expect in a film with that title. Targets are picked off from afar, stabbed, strangled, and beaten to death. On the surface the film is a serviceable action diversion, but it suffers and is ultimately undone by its origin: the movie feels like a video game, hence why it’s a hollow and impersonal experience.
Genetically engineered from birth, Agent 47 (Olyphant) is part of a special breed of killing machine. He is hired by various shadow organizations around the world to kill political leaders, and to say he’s good at what he does would be quite an understatement. 47 finds himself engulfed in a conspiracy after a botched hit on Russian President Mikhail Belicoff (Thomsen). Both Interpol and the Russian military are tailing him throughout Europe. 47’s accomplice is Nika Boronina (Kurylenko), a Russian prostitute who holds key answers regarding the men who are after him.
The plot is merely a placeholder for a host of action sequences. The centerpiece is a well-choreographed battle in an empty train station that features guns, swords, and some good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat. Director Xavier Gens takes a very stylistic approach to the material that works at times, but is simply too much to handle otherwise. He never meets an overhead hotel hallway shot he doesn’t like and the final showdown is a disastrous case of the infamous “shaky cam.” Fortunately, cinematographer Laurent Barès gives the film a very high-class look throughout, as the film changes locations at will.
Timothy Olyphant is burdened with having to carry the entire film, and he gives it his best shot ? even as he is forced to utter groan-inducing one-liners and try a turn at black comedy in the film’s final act. His presence is imposing, but the character is never given any satisfying depth by screenwriter Skip Woods. More back story would have helped, as a good portion of the time Agent 47 simply seems like a well-groomed Terminator. The supporting cast is nothing to write home about, as Dougray Scott and Robert Knepper spend most of the movie bickering at each other and Olga Kurylenko is reduced to an overly emotional sidekick.
As video game adaptations go, Hitman is certainly one of the sleekest and most well-made films in the canon. Unfortunately, it just can’t escape the downfall of the genre and make the viewer actually feel something. Action fans will get a few scenes to slobber over, but it’s nothing that can’t wait for a quick chapter skip on DVD. Hitman may represent some progress in the video game adaptation genre, but it’s not enough to recommend.
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Length: 100 Minutes
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity.
Theatrical Release: November 21, 2007
Directed by: Xavier Gens
Written by: Skip Woods
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Henry Ian Cusick