If you’re the sort of person who huffs paint and gives yourself mild concussions for fun, then you’ll enjoy the heck out of Hitman: Agent 47, in theaters today. Actually, anybody who enjoys incredibly dumb movies will get a kick out of this cinematic gem.
Some spoilers ahead...
Hitman: Agent 47 is the latest in a long line of video game movies that apparently believe that gamers don’t particularly care about narrative, character, story or action. It’s probably better than Doom but not in the same league as most of Paul W.S. Anderson’s films. It’s based on the Hitman game series, which already spawned one previous film (but this isn’t a sequel or anything, just a standalone.)
Agent 47 is the sort of film that starts with a lengthy voice-over, explaining the plot and pretty much everything else. Turns out that during the Cold War, a mad scientist figured out how to create genetically-engineered super-assassins, called Agents. And then the program was ended—but a group of bad guys, called the Syndicate, want to start it up again and create a whole army of super-killers.
So the Syndicate wants to find the elderly scientist who knows the secret of making Agents, but one of the last surviving Agents—Agent 47—is determined to stop them. The only one who can find the old scientist is his daughter, Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware), so both the Syndicate operative John Smith (Zachary Quinto) and Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) want to get hold of her.
So it’s a chase movie, sort of. But also, Katia has a secret of her own, which is hinted at early on when we see her having weird quasi-psychic flashes that conveniently warn her about danger. (At one point, there’s a scene where she walks through an airport, avoiding security cameras, which goes on for about ten minutes.)
The main heart of the film is Rupert Friend’s somewhat world-weary performance as a killer who has been engineered not to have human kindness or other emotional weaknesses. Agent 47 is a somewhat affectless badass, who’s at his best wiping the floor with disposable bad guys, but Friend manages to give him a certain smirky warmth, on which he hangs the character’s reed-thin development throughout the film. Any actor can bring life to a well-written character, but Friend manages to take a total cipher and make him sort of likable.
That said, the real fun of watching Hitman: Agent 47 is to follow the random plot-hammering. This is the sort of movie where a guy ties a girl up in front of a jet engine that’s powering up, just for the crazy heck of it. It’s the sort of movie where plot developments are laboriously telegraphed, only to arrive with a thud. There are “plot twists” in this film that feel like the characters just had a whim, or maybe a psychotic break.
This is also the sort of movie where the CG looks, at times, like it belongs in a 1990s TV movie. Plus during one major fight scene, Zachary Quinto’s stunt double’s face is clearly visible, and looks nothing like Zachary Quinto.
First-time director Aleksander Bach tries valiantly to insert some visual flair into the film, using some unusual camera set-ups and trying to make Berlin and Singapore look like alien, futuristic dystopias. There are a handful of clever shots framed by buildings or walls with weird stuff sprouting out of them, or mist from an orchid nursery. But whenever it comes time for one of the movie’s obligatory fight scenes, Bach’s visual inventiveness goes out the window and suddenly he’s a terrible tenth-generation Wachowski clone, giving us the same gun-fu that a billion other movies have already done better. The action scenes pretty much consist of nothing but shots you’ve seen before, except for one or two bits involving heavy machinery.
Hitman: Agent 47 isn’t quite over-the-top enough to be a true “so bad it’s good” experience. But I wasn’t bored during its 85-minute running length, and by the end, I was laughing pretty loud, along with most of the other audience members. There’s something to be said for a movie that not only asks you to turn off your brain, but actually gives you the feeling of temporary brain damage. It’s liberating, you know?
So when you eventually Netflix or rent Hitman: Agent 47, make sure to consume enough of your intoxicant of choice, and you’ll be fine. To quote from something I said in a review of another movie a few years ago, this sort of movie is the reason why there’s a 4:20 in the morning as well as in the afternoon.
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