From the Archives: Hitman: Agent 47 review

From the Archives: Hitman: Agent 47 review

In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it. 

Without further ado, I present to you: FROM THE ARCHIVES.
Originally posted on Cinema76.

There isn’t much room for effective criticism of movies like Hitman: Agent 47. The target audience is extremely limited, consisting solely of fans of the Hitman video games (a small group), who are interested in a film version of it (a smaller group), and who weren’t put off the previous adaptation (the tiniest). With these 100 or so people in mind, I can’t say that Hitman: Agent 47 is a failure, but for the rest of us, it’s nothing special.Please note that for the sake of my sanity, and yours, the film will henceforth be referred to as HM:A47.  Here goes.

HM:A47 is similar to a video game in a lot of ways, most notably in its characters. They don’t really feel like characters so much as they do designs. Each looks the way it’s supposed to look and functions the way it’s supposed to function, but none have any soul to them. Least of all, the title character, Agent 47 (Rupert Friend, who looks alarmingly like Orlando Bloom). Agent 47 is not really supposed to show emotion, as that is how he’s been programmed, but even so, you’d think his face would move just a little. It doesn’t. I don’t fully blame Friend, but the actor is woefully miscast. There’s just nothing about him that evokes any sort of intensity. Even when he’s fist-fighting between passing trains, he seems to be sleeping. The villain, an equally miscast – and totally game – Zachary Quinto, is fun to watch, even if the experience serves only to invoke the lamentation that Heroes was too ahead of its time to succeed. He chews the scenery as earnestly as he can, but Quinto isn’t really the scene-chewing type. He works best when he’s playing damaged or inquisitive. As an evil-because-fun style villain, he’s a tough sell.

The individual scenes also play out like a video game. Most are just run-n-gun escape situations, where Agent 47 must shoot down hordes of nameless, faceless baddies. The second act takes the form of one of those pesky “escort” missions (which may be the reason why I don’t play video games anymore). There’s even a sequence where a character must avoid the eye of multiple security cameras by learning the pattern and timing of the cameras’ movements. I wonder if any of these sequences are direct lifts from the games, in which case, kudos, but it doesn’t make for particularly cinematic action.

This isn’t to say that the action is bad, it’s just bland. Each and every action setpiece is quite exquisitely conceived, but poorly executed. There is a wealth of rubbery CGI stuntmen, near-pixelated explosions, and cartoonish cars that just don’t move right. Yes, using CGI is cheaper than actually exploding a car, but I’ll take one practical explosion over fifty rendered ones any day of the week.

HM:A47 doesn’t shy away from blood and guts … except when it does. For every henchman that gets thrown into an industrial grinder (complete with a Wilhelm!), three are ambiguously dispatched off-camera. The film has an R-rating, but feels as if some of the violence was shaved off in the editing room. It’s a shame, because there are a few moments that really capture the ballet of violence to which we humans are drawn, but each is punctuated by a lack of commitment to the craft. It’s called Hitman – is there any reason why it should play safe? In a lot of ways, HM:A47 reminded me of Punisher: War Zone, and if, like Punisher, it had committed to the schlockiness, it could have at least made itself memorable, if not given it shades of cult status. As it is, HM:A47 is doomed to be forgotten.

At the end of the day, it’s not an aggressively bad movie, and at 85 minutes, it doesn’t stick around long enough to become anything but a competently entertaining distraction. The select few people to whom this is geared will likely love it, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Also, there’s an actress who is credited simply as ANGELABABY. Um, what?

Hitman: Agent 47 opens today in Philly area theaters.

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