I hesitate to say it, but we are officially past the summer movie season and have started into the fall movie season. This is where you find the beginning of the horror rush (they like to drop those right around Halloween-ish times) and the average action movies that couldn’t quite cut it for the summer tentpole season. They are dumped here because the big time summer blockbusters are still in theaters (you can still catch Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, Ant-Man, and Man From U.N.C.L.E. – and you should).
This movie is an example of that. It’s a competent action movie that executes the material, but does not elevate it. The first Hitman videogame was released in 2000. Basically, you play as 47, a cloned assassin for hire. He has a flawless record, which makes him in high demand. You receive your target, then have to use stealth to eliminate the target. Since stealth was the goal, there was a lot of clothes-changing to blend him, and hiding of dead bodies so as to not attract attention. Here's the latest version:
I find it interesting to be writing about this action movie based on a video game the same week that is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the movie Mortal Kombat, which is still the best translation of a video game to a movie to date. This is not the first time someone has tried to bring the Hitman games to the big screen. The only thing this one shares with the previous Hitman movie from 2007 starring Timothy Olyphant is the writer, Skip Woods.
The first version starred Olyphant as 47, with Dougray Scott as his target and Olga Kurylenko as the woman. Honestly, I don’t remember much about the plot. I just remember it not being very good. The hitman was a genetically-engineered and trained assassin that was hired by “The Organization”, getting his instructions from the mysterious ‘Diana’ and got caught up with Interpol and the Russian Military as he encountered a woman who made him question his programming.
In this version, 47 has received a contract from Diana and is after Katia Van Dees – a woman who is believed to know the location of her father, Litvenko. He is the scientist who created the Hitman program, where genetic engineering results in perfect killers. However, Le Clerq, the head of an evil organization, has been working with genetic modification to try to replicate the program. He hasn’t quite perfected it – so he is after Litvenko as well and has sent several agents after Katia. One of the agents, John Smith – tracks her down and ‘saves’ her from 47. Eventually, she realizes that Smith is not all that he seems, and she ends up partnering up with 47.
47 lets her know some things about herself, including that her name isn’t actually Katia Van Dees, but quatre vin-dix; which is French for 90. He then gives her some advice on how to make use of the genetic programming that’s already in her system, helping her get stronger and faster – and realize where her father has been hiding. The two of them track down the old scientist, who is dying from lung cancer, just as Smith arrives to capture him. This leads to our numerical heroes breaking into the villain’s headquarters to put an end to LeClerq, electrocute Smith, and not really rescue Litvenko. Then, they don’t really escape just as Agent 48 – another hitman – appears to attempt to take them out, leaving space for another movie if necessary.
This is Polish director Aleksander Bach’s first feature directing job. It certainly looks decent enough, and the action is just fine. I will say that never before has a movie made Singapore look so gorgeous that I wanted to visit. The gardens, the fancy hotel with the super fancy pools, the stunning shots of the city – I loved that. It looks amazing!
However, as I stated before – the movie executes the material – it doesn’t elevate it. The difference can be seen when you watch Mission Impossible Rogue Nation – that material is not original, it’s just another spy flick. However, the amount of attention paid to the stunts and the characters elevates that original material to something really entertaining. This Hitman movie has a fairly unoriginal plot, and doesn’t do much to add anything extra to it. Something that I found really a glaring issue was the notable use of stunt doubles. If you are directing a movie that is action/stunt based, and you really want to sell that as the main piece, why not hire more capable fighters as your leads?
- Rupert Friend from Pride and Prejudice and Homeland plays 47 – and he stepped into this role that was supposed to go to Paul Walker before his tragic passing. I thought he was pretty good – he’s supposed to be flat and emotionless, and does that really well. He’s also supposed to start feeling about halfway through the movie – and he also does that very well, in a really subtle way – just in the eyes. I especially loved the sequence of him breaking in to and then out of the American embassy as he kept changing outfits to blend in – that being one of the parts of the original game that I remember. He was good, but I can’t help but wonder how Walker would have done.
- Hannah Ware from Boss and Betrayal plays Katia or 90. I was pretty impressed by her. Once she finally sinks into her training, and starts being more kick-ass and less frightened, she gets much more action-packed, helping 47 on his path to his ultimate target.
- Zachary Quinto plays John Smith – and while it was nice to see him back in Sylar-y villain mode, I’m not sure I buy him as an action star – and his stunt double was very obvious. Why not just cast a villain who can really do all the hand to hand combat?
- Ciaran Hinds plays Litvenko, because why not cast an Irishman as a Russian? He was barely in the movie, but spent the time he was around regretting what he had done to Katia and leaving her the way he did.
- Thomas Kretschmann plays LeClerq – he brings the same slick generic European bad-guy vibe to LeClerq. Essentially he’s a guy who never leaves he super secure office. Until, of course, Litvenko is brough it, then he can’t get down to the interrogation chamber fast enough.
- Jurgen Prochnow is also in this movie, and I used to get him confused with Thomas Kretchmann. Prochnow has one scene in which he provides a fake ID to Katia. It’s such a small scene that I can’t figure out why you would need Jurgen Prochnow for that. Maybe he’s friends with the crew/director?
- Angelababy – yes, that’s her taken stage name – plays Diana, the mysterious handler for 47, who then of course calls in 48 too, so who knows what side she’s on.
Overall it wasn’t terrible, just very average. You could wait, rent it, or just watch it on TV and get the same effect as seeing it in the theater.
6 out of 10 – Gained points for 47 stating how much he loved his suit. Lost points for the “sub-dermal bulletproof vest” thing. Gained points for Katia being really awesome once she started to learn her powers. Lost points for Quinto’s post-electrocution look – the Albino – which is something from the game that I am not familiar with?. Gained points for the gorgeous shots of Singapore – which is now on my travel bucket list thanks to this movie!
Bonus Video 1: Timothy Olyphant steals every scene of this that he's in – Gone in 60 seconds.
Bonus Video 2: Catch and Release - another Olyphant movie I love.
Bonus Video 3: Cast interviews