'Hitman: Agent 47' Review
'Hitman: Agent 47' should bring an end to video game adaptations.
Release Date: August 21, 2015
MPAA Rating: R
Hitman: Agent 47 centers on an elite assassin who was genetically engineered from conception to be the perfect killing machine, and is known only by the last two digits on the barcode tattooed on the back of his neck. He is the culmination of decades of research – and forty-six earlier Agent clones – endowing him with unprecedented strength, speed, stamina and intelligence. His latest target is a mega-corporation that plans to unlock the secret of Agent 47’s past to create an army of killers whose powers surpass even his own. Teaming up with a young woman who may hold the secret to overcoming their powerful and clandestine enemies, 47 confronts stunning revelations about his own origins and squares off in an epic battle with his deadliest foe.
For more than two decades Hollywood has operated under the impression that video games don’t make for good movies. Super Mario Bros. is the prototypical example of this maxim, and few movies released since have proven otherwise. But, like the untapped potential many saw in comic books 15 years ago, there is still the belief that video games can eventually support major blockbusters. Hitman: Agent 47, however, is going to make a strong case to the contrary.
Whether you want to look at Hitman: Agent 47 as an action film or a video game adaptation, the fact of the matter is the movie is neither enjoyable nor is it particularly well made. Its leading actors lack charisma, its action lacks pop, and its story is extremely generic. The only good thing to be said about the film is that it is short, meaning any fans of the “Hitman” video games won’t have to suffer for too long before moving on to more important things.
While no one expects the writing in a video game adaptation to be particularly sharp, the story in Hitman: Agent 47 is laughably generic and painfully obvious. Essentially, the film imagines a secret program that genetically enhances humans to serve as emotionless weapons called Agents. These Agents are extremely skilled fighters, deadly marksmen, and they can perceive threats well before they appear. And for the most part, Hitman: Agent 47gets that idea across, but it doesn’t do anything fun with it. At some points, the film casts Agent 47 as a Terminator-esque villain and then flips him into the hero, but nowhere does Hitman: Agent 47 make him a compelling character.
Things are made worse by the fact that the casting in Hitman: Agent 47 is hopelessly off key. As the titular Agent 47, Rupert Friend brings a physicality to the role, but little else. He looks convincing as the bald, genetically enhanced assassin, but any scene that calls for exposition or character development is unwatchable. Zachary Quinto’s John Smith, an employee of the nefarious Syndicate, is similarly generic in both action scenes and character moments. And you might as well forget about Hannah Ware as Katia, the girl at the center of Hitman: Agent 47‘s plot. As our window into the world of the Agent program and the entire film, she struggles to carry this already flimsy picture.
To be frank, there isn’t much to say about Hitman: Agent 47 that doesn’t carry some synonym for bad. Across the board, the film struggles to deliver entertainment on even the most basic levels, despite a general reliance on action. Goofy directorial decisions and an eye-rolling plot are two of its most egregious crimes, but they are followed by a laundry list of minor sins. If you had hoped Hitman: Agent 47 might be the film to break the video game curse, prepare for some really bad news.
At times Hitman: Agent 47 shows flashes of creativity in the way it brings this unstoppable killing machine to life. Watching Agent 47 dispatch a room full of thugs is almost balletic in spots, but eventually even that well starts to run dry. After a point, what was initially kind of cool becomes old hat, as we continuously watch Agent 47 shoot bad guy after bad guy in the head. There are also some moments where Agent 47 uses the environment to take out the hordes of nameless thugs, which is entertaining, but too underdeveloped. There’s not enough creativity at play to call those action sequences exciting, but they are somewhat cool.
Things are less so during the chase sequences, which use a strange mishmash of CGI and practical effects. Although it’s pretty clear that the film features real cars zipping through real sets, at times a subtle CGI detail will be thrown in to heighten the action. These moments are the most confusing of all because the effects work is neither convincing nor realistic. At times the CGI can be so bad, in fact, that it takes you completely out of the movie.