Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hitman: Agent 47

2.5/4

Starring: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Thomas Kretschmann, Ciaran Hinds

Rated R for Sequences of Strong Violence and Some Language

The history of video games turned into movies is not good; at best, they’re cheesy fun like “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider,” but at worst, they’re monstrosities like “Doom.”  The original “Hitman” movie wasn’t as bad as that, but the only things worth noting about it were the performances by Timothy Olyphant and Olga Kurylenko.  This new version reboot is nothing special, but it’s at least entertaining.

Years ago, a scientist named Litvenko (Hinds) found away to genetically enhance the human species to become super soldiers.  Terrified of what he created, Litvenko disappeared.  Now, a young woman named Katia (Ware) is searching for her father, but she’s staying on the run from those who want to kill her, like a mysterious assassin (Friend).  Her only ally is a man who calls himself John Smith (Quinto), but can she trust him?

In addition to being rather trite and totally derivative, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense.  From moment to moment it’s easy to follow since it really boils down to “shoot the bad guys and protect the girl,” but the film doesn’t do a good job of establishing who wants what.  There’s plenty of lying and double-crossing in the film’s first half, and the writing is messy.  Ultimately it’s all arbitrary, but it can be frustrating to try and figure this all out.  In an action movie, no less.

The acting is lacking.  As the title character, Rupert Friend (taking over from Paul Walker, who was set to play the role before his tragic death) looks badass, but speaking completely ruins the effect.  Friend tries to bridge the gap between remorseless killer and a man who recognizes his own humanity, but the results are uneven; he lacks presence and intensity (certainly nothing like what Hugo Weaving did in “The Matrix” movies).   Michael C. Hall did this sort of thing a lot better in “Dexter.”  Hannah Ware is quite good as Katia, the woman in search of her father.  The film’s best scenes are when Agent 47 is showing her how to use the skills she doesn’t know she possesses.  Zachary Quinto makes for an adequate antagonist, but like Friend, he lacks intensity and true malice.  Thomas Kretschmann is limited to staying behind the scenes and giving orders until the climax.  And while it’s always nice to see Ciaran Hinds on screen, his role is beneath him.

So you have a flat screenplay and uneven performances.  What’s there to make this movie worth seeing (or close to it)?  Some nicely choreographed action scenes.  I’m not talking about anything worth raving about (first time director Alexsandr Bach is no John Woo), but they’re well-choreographed and crisply edited.  They’re fun to watch, especially watching each piece of 47’s careful planning fall into place.  And it features the coolest gunplay since the cult film “Equilibrium.”

I was going to give this movie a 3/4, but then I thought again.  Does this movie really offer enough that it’s worth seeking out in a theater?  I mean, does the theatrical experience have anything that can’t be experienced on Blu Ray or Netflix?  Not really.  This is a good “turn off your brain movie” for when you want to just sit back on the couch with a beer or two and unwind.

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