Starring: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto
Genetically engineered to be the perfect killing machine and known by the two numbers at the end of the barcode on his head, the latest target for Agent 47 (Friend) is a corporation that is attempting to bring back the agent program to create an army of unstoppable killers. With the help of a mysterious woman (Ware) who may hold the secrets to revelations about his own past, Agent 47 must take down the corporation and also defeat a foe that may be more powerful than himself.
It seems Hollywood is still trying to crack remaking video games, but though the obvious reason as to why they do this is to make money as it means the film automatically has a marketable title and legion of fans, they seem to be consistently missing the point. Games are most certainly becoming increasingly cinematic in terms of the storytelling and visuals, but they are still essentially two different mediums because of the role of individual sitting in front of the TV.
Hitman is surely a classic point of this as the point of the game was to sneak around and never be caught, avoiding any kind of big scale gunfight and just do subtle, intelligent and discreet killings. It was at times a real challenge to play, but is not exactly what your average blockbuster crowd want to be seeing on screen these days. So immediately the film is going to be very different from the main point of the game. As is the case with Hitman: Agent 47, it is a series of loud and dumb action sequences.
My main case in point goes back to the whole marketing aspect; in the same way we get countless supposed sequels, prequels, remakes or reboots, it is all in the title and its familiarity and perfectly demonstrates both the cynicism and trepidation that Hollywood operates with. Most of the these films could be films in their own right, but just use the title, character names and (sometimes) same actors as it means it can get a head start with the marketing.
Hitman: Agent 47 may have the key names in common with the games, but it is just a story in its own right with just the few details in common. This makes even attempting to compare it to the games (of which I really liked myself) a completely pointless task. Hitman: Agent 47 is a film that should be solely judged on its own merits, however unfortunately it doesn’t actually have many of these in its own right either.
This is a shame as screenwriters Skip Woods (whose CV is less than glittering) and Michael Finch do introduce some cinematic devices to the narrative that though, very formulaic, they can work if deployed effectively. The focus around the protagonist is one; there are of course countless examples of how potentially unlikeable cold blooded killers can be engaging characters, and here there are hints at a storyline involving personal redemption for Agent 47. Likewise a character like Agent 47 presents what I seem to now refer to as the ‘Liam Neeson problem’; a character that cannot get even get hurt, let alone potentially killed, depleting nay sense of danger or tension as it is usually a given that he will win. To solve this there is a foe who is physically superior to 47 in some ways, adding an element of unpredictability and danger at times. These, if done well, could have made for a decent action thriller, but alas that is not what we get.
Instead director Aleksander Bach just goes for as many loud action sequences as he can that have some questionable CGI and as many stylistic gimmicks as possible. For all the gimmickry, these scenes are predominantly quite dull, especially as the plot itself is not told very well and also contains some hideous dialogue.
The fact is that career defining performances would probably not have helped make this film any better, but the performances are also rather poor anyway. Rupert Friend is undoubtedly a fine actor, but is horrendously miscast as both the Agent 47 of the games and the Agent 47 in this particular film. While Timothy Olyphant had some solid screen presence and a great voice, Rupert Friend is just completely miscast. His accent is all over the place and he just looks really nervous all the time, this may be an attempt to make the character more engaging, but even when he is gunning down generic henchman, he has the facial expressions of a timid schoolboy, and never convinces as a cold blooded killer of any kind.
The supporting cast are not much better; Hannah Ware’s Katia van Dees (the explanation for her name provides a truly-cringe worthy moment!) is by far the most potentially interesting character, but the plot and her flat performance make it almost impossible to care. Likewise Zachary Quinto provides a bit of edge, but looks bored, Ciarán Hinds dons a terrible Eastern European accent and rent-a-baddie Thomas Kretschmann chews plenty of scenery.
Naturally, as is the norm these days, things are left open for a sequel, though the abruptness of the ending makes it feel like they just ran out of money. Either way, judging on this abysmal hodgepodge of a film and its box office return, a direct sequel is highly unlikely, but don’t rule out yet another reboot in a few years.
Further proof that Hollywood should give up stealing game titles so the marketing department can get a head start; comparisons with the games pretty much stop at the title, but despite some potential for this being an enjoyable but dumb action film, Hitman: Agent 47 is just boring and dumb.