An adaptation of the popular videogame of the same name, Hitman is exactly the kind of movie you’d expect it to be. The bad kind. It’s incredible that after all this time Hollywood still hasn’t been able to figure out the videogame to movie genre. Maybe they don’t think they have to since the movies make tons of money anyway, but as a gamer myself it sure would be nice if filmmakers would start taking us seriously. Or perhaps I should say it would be nice if someone hired a serious filmmaker to make one of these movies.
That hasn’t happened yet, and so we’re stuck with videogame movies done by cinematic cellar dwellers like Paul W.S. Anderson, Uwe Boll, and in this case Xavier Gens. He directs Hitman from a script by Skip Woods, a script which doesn’t do him any favors. It’s as shallow and empty as it is convoluted and confusing in telling the story of Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) a bald, bar-coded killer for hire.
There’s a halfhearted attempt to develop a back story for 47 in the film’s opening credits, but for the most part he leaps on to the screen as is. We never really understand who he is, what he is, or why he does what he does and Gens doesn’t seem to care. I learned more about Olyphant’s hitman character in the film’s trailers than I did during the running time of the movie itself. The trailers talk about 47 as an agent of a disavowed brotherhood of the Catholic Church, and allude to a secret religious conspiracy, all of which seems interesting. None of that is in the movie. Instead, we get a bald guy who we’re told is a member of an “organization” and simply walks around shooting people, without any obvious motivation, and with a life that begins when you enter the theater and ends when you walk out of it. He’s given no history, no personality. 47 is a walking, talking, killing robot and we never get to know him.
Because we don’t know who he is, his actions are often confusing. 47 is on a mission, the mission goes wrong, and a lot of people are trying to kill him. We don’t really know why, and though the film is filled with plot revelations none of them seem to add up to anything. Even after the movie, I’d be hard pressed to tell you what I saw. There was this bald guy, he shot a bunch of people, then he drove away. Interpol is after him, some people he kills, others he lets live for no other reason than that it would make him too unsympathetic to kill one of the good guys. He saves a girl named Nika (Olga Kurylenko) too, because apparently he has a thing for facial tattoos, and because the movie needed a way to work in some gratuitous nudity. At least it’s good gratuitous nudity. Olga Kurylenko is built like a gazelle.
What I’m getting at here is obvious: Nika’s luscious legs aside, Hitman is an unmitigated mess. The script is a disaster, the plot is a waste of time, and the characters aren’t just unsympathetic, they’re empty, hollow shells which are little better than computer generated constructs. I’m not sure why they bothered with flesh and blood actors.
The movie has one thing going for it and one thing only: It looks pretty. Gens has a real flair for gritty, Euro-trash and the film drips with dark contrasts and long, lingering, gorgeous slow-motion shots littered with bullets. His characters are dressed in dark contrasting colors which really pop on screen, and he makes full use of that, framing each shot carefully and contrasting Olyphant’s shiny bald head with his surroundings.
If only all that great cinematography had been used on some sort of mind-blowing action sequence I might have been able to forgive the film’s muddled mess of a script. But Hitman can’t even accomplish that. Most of the movie’s action boils down to a guy standing and posing with guns. There’s a sword fight between hitmen, but it comes off like a spatula fight. In the face of real action movies like The Bourne Ultimatum and Live Free or Die Hard, Hitman’s action isn’t that exciting. I kept waiting for the film to hit its big, defining moment; kept waiting for that big, penultimate action sequence; kept waiting for the plot to unravel and make sense. It never happened, and I wish Hitman hadn’t either.