Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: Rated R for sequences of strong violence, and some language.
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Ciaran Hinds, Thomas Kretschmann, Angelababy
Small role: Jurgen Prochnow
Director: Aleksander Bach
Screenplay: Skip Woods, Michael Finch
Review published August 18, 2015
Hitman: Agent 47 is a kinda/sorta sequel/reboot to 2007's Hitman, both based on the popular video game series of the same name, and both scripted by the same man, Skip Woods. If you're like me, you'll probably be skeptical that a quality script isn't likely to be written by anyone named 'Skip', and given both of these films, and taking a look at other works from Mr. Woods (Sabotage, A Good Day to Die Hard, The A-Team, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) you'd be very correct in your hunch.
Rupert Friend (The Last Legion, Pride & Prejudice), in a role originally intended for the late Paul Walker, stars as Agent 47, an assassin-on-steroids that had been genetically engineered in an elaborate experiment fostered by a secret organization looking to create the world's most effective team of highly trained killers, imbued with heightened senses, enhanced strength, acute intelligence, and a nearly complete lack of emotion. He also always follows through on his contracts. His latest assignment finds 47 looking for a young and very uniquely gifted woman named Katia (Ware, Oldboy), who we come to learn is the daughter of the scientist who pioneered the now-defunct Agent program. Standing in the way of his success is a an international corporation, led by their own dangerous agent named John Smith (Quinto, Star Trek Into Darkness), that wants the secret to create their own Agents, which they intend on doing by picking the brain of Katia's father, Litvenko (Hinds, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby), who has been hiding underground for years.
Audi cars get prominent placement throughout Hitman: Agent 47, which at times seems to be trying to sell us these cars, as we watch them accelerate with great vim, traverse hairpin turns, and gleam in the neon lights of the city like a sleek work of art. It should come as little surprise that the film's director, Aleksander Bach, cut his teeth in the industry in commercials, as well as in music videos, as the film looks like it's always trying to hock its fine automobiles, designer clothing, and shiny artillery throughout, even when it isn't. It's his first feature, and he definitely delivers on eye candy, but Woods' script serves up little food for thought otherwise. It's the kind of film where every computer screen looks like it comes from the 23rd Century, complete with whirling icons, random numbers, and text that always makes chirp noises when it displays across the screen, even though no computer user today would ever choose such an environment for their own workspace.
Woods' horrendously written screenplays seems to lift heavily from the original Terminator film for the first third, before settling in to the kind of stylish, no-brain actioner you're expecting from a series that seems to want to take the place of Resident Evil, another ultra-stylish action series with genetically enhanced characters fighting evil corporations based on popular video games, in its Euro-sleek delivery of physics-defying gunplay. The action is always impressive, and it's shot well, if a bit too CG to be realistic, but the generic qualities of the characters and the overall storyline mars any enjoyment of them as a thrill ride because we have little rooting interest in how things will shake out. Still, the roving camerawork is nice, and accentuates sleek architecture and color design that is easy to look at, even if the plot isn't really easy to understand. Hand-to-hand combat is a disappointment, however, with quick cuts and actors head digitally superimposed on stunt bodies in a way that is occasionally obvious when viewed on a clear, big screen.
Though there are a few Easter Eggs for those who've played the video game series, fans of the aforementioned Resident Evil are the primary audience, so if you've been itching to get your fix, it's an adequate substitute, and you even get a sexy female protagonist who can kick some butt to boot. As someone who has never cared for the Resident Evil films, it should come as no surprise that I also feel the same way about its imitator -- utterly disposable. That it ends on a cliffhanger should tell you that they also wouldn't mind a six-film series to grow out of this one, if possible, but given the track record thus far, Hitman's going to need a lot more talent if it wants to score its marks.
©2015 Vince Leo