It’s never a good sign when a film opens with a completely unnecessary opening narration, spelling out details of the plot or back story that should, and many times are, revealed naturally as the film progresses. It’s an indication that the film-makers have little confidence in their story, their storytelling ability, or in the audiences ability to keep up with complex ideas; or in the case of Hitman: Agent 47, ideas that are not so complex.
Thankfully Hitman: Agent 47 recovers from this and a few early missteps to deliver a relatively unambitious, dumb, fun, action b-movie.
For anyone who doesn’t know, this is the second film based upon IO Interactive’s video game series Hitman (duh), bearing no real relation to the film version starring Timothy Olyphant from 2005 and is yet another weird attempt to shoehorn a straight narrative onto a game in which player choice in game-play is the order of the day. Concentrating on the titular Agent 47, the player controls this genetically engineered, perfectly trained killer, as they choose just how to assassinate each level’s target using a variety of disguises, weapons, and, in many cases, grisly traps built into the levels themselves.
Hitman: Agent 47 begins with the same basic set up, as Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) fulfils a contract related to the genetic engineering experiments that created him; seeking out the only link to his long lost creator: his maker’s daughter Katia (Hannah Ware). Katia meanwhile, is in Berlin trying to hunt down a man that she doesn’t know, (but who the audience already knows is her father, thanks opening narration!) as she is approached by “John Smith” ( Zachary Quinto), a man who seems to know a lot about Katia, her father and the agent programme, and who may just have answers for her, at the very moment that Agent 47 appears and unleashes havoc and a hail of bullets.
What follows is a series of chases as Katia and John attempt to get away from the increasingly terminator-like Agent 47, triple crosses on top of double crosses as the true heroes and villains of the piece are revealed, some training in how to become an agent and a heist aimed at eliminating the villain.
Fun homages to the games abound with Agent 47’s laptop sporting the familiar Hitman logo as it’s desktop background; appearances by his handler Diana, as played by Hong Kong actress and model Angelababy; Agent 47 donning numerous disguises throughout the game, sorry, I mean film; some very brief in-game footage of Hitman: Absolution (see if YOU can spot it) and a nice moment when a guard becomes suspicious of Agent 47 because he is carrying a huge gun that clearly doesn’t match the disguise he is wearing, just like in the later games.
Despite that woefully bad first impression and an underwhelming first action sequence, after a while you may find yourself actually enjoying Hitman Agent 47. The plot moves along quickly, developing a quirky sense of humour as it does so and Quinto is fun to watch as he very clearly has a blast getting into fights and cursing like sailor in this rated 18 film.
Rupert Friend has less to do as the stoic Agent 47, but Hannah Ward is the stand-out here as she emerges as a viable action heroine over the course of the film.
There’s also some nice, if clearly signposted twists and one level, sorry, I mean scene, with a series of gruesome industrial equipment that seems purely set up to dispose of enemies in the most gratuitous, yet funny, manner possible, again a direct lift from the game series, as Agent 47 teaches his craft to a new recruit.
Despite the b-movie feel, some shoddy digital effects work does mar things slightly, mostly with digital stand-ins for actors “ragdolling” unconvincingly around the screen. This is especially surprising as the famous Industrial Light and Magic are credited as the visual effects team. The physical effects and stunts more than make up for this, though.
Hitman: Agent 47 joins the first Resident Evil movie in the hallowed ranks of the “Not-too-bad-a-video-game-adaptation” hall of fame. It definitely won’t topple Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation or Jurassic World from the top spots in the summer box office charts but if you’ve already caught those it’s diverting enough and it will be perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon when it eventually comes to TV.
Stars: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ward, Zachary Quinto, Ciarán Hinds, Angelbaby, Thomas Kretschmann
Directed By: Aleksander Bach
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