V.G. Movies #29: Hitman.

[Welcome back to the Evolution of Video Game Movies series. Every week, I will be moving forward through time, starting with the earliest and ending with the most recent of video game movies. I will be detailing the histories of the games and how the films came about, and both my and fan reaction to the adaptations. Practically all of my background information is either common knowledge or from Wikipedia. So without further ado, let's move on to the next film on the list.]


I've taken notice that the more recent a game series was created, the less interesting of a story it has behind it. I mean, look at any of the old-school series I've discussed histories about... Mario and/or Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy, Pokemon, and even some fighters like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. But I would say the last "interesting" story behind a game series comes from Silent Hill, which was way back in 1999. Ever since, it appears game ideas are just a dime a dozen, and the concepts behind the stories and characters have just become... average. Uninteresting. A guy comes up with game, and that game is made. The end. At least for games that have so far become films. Does that make it a bad concept, though?

The first Hitman game came out in 2000 and followed, well... a hitman... named Agent 47. He's a bald assassin with a barcode tattoo on the back of his head. Though he's kind of a test subject, as well, and is trained in the art of perfect murder for a company called the International Contract Agency (ICA). The first game has 47 escape from a sanatorium and then has him do a series of missions that he begins to realize are all connected. And not only are they connected, but they're related to the sanatorium where he escaped from. And the twist is that he's actually been cloned and/or specially created using genetic material from all the people he'd just killed in order to make a flawless human.

A sequel came out in 2002 wherein 47 has run away to Sicily to seek peace from his former existence. The plot involves a priest getting kidnapped by the Russian mafia, and it's up to 47 to save him. By the end, 47 becomes a hitman once more. The next two games are intertwined with not only each other, but with the first game, as well. The third game is kind of a replaying of the original while building its own story that leads into the fourth game... which appears to be way too complicated to get into in this short amount of space. But the short version is that it involves 47 performing a last hit after his primary contact--a woman named Diana, who has been in all the games, as well--closes down ICA. He also gets help from a CIA agent named Smith who he helped out earlier in the game.

But, as is the case with the majority of video game adaptations... it's made by some foreign dude who has seemingly never played any of the games and, thus, have trouble getting aspects of the story, characters, tone, etc. right. (Seriously, though... I've noticed hardly any Americans make video game movies. Of the arguably 3 best--Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and Silent Hill--two were made by an American (the same guy), and one by a Frenchman... not making a point, just an observation. Oh, and this one is by another Frenchman.) Anyway, I saw this in theater and remember being insanely underwhelmed and frankly kind of bored by it. But let's see if I feel the same now?


So... that was a movie. Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is hired to kill Russian President Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen), but for some reason--despite getting shot in the face--he seems to be alive and well. That's when his own company decides to put a hit out on him. They first attempt this by setting him up to take down the President's prostitute girlfriend, Nika (Olga Kurylenko), who supposedly saw him in the act. But when he realizes it's all a setup, he kidnaps Nika and goes on the run, only getting help from the likes of CIA agent Smith (James Faulkner). Meanwhile, Interpol agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) is looking for him, as well, and trying to stay a step ahead... but finding that very difficult.

The thing that's always bugged me about this movie is the casting of Agent 47. Now, I've never played the games or anything, so I'm no expert. But even looking at the dude on the cover, my first 10 thoughts would not be "let's shave Timothy Olyphant's head and cast him." It's just... weird. I mean, I love Olyphant as much as the next guy. And honestly, he does his best with the role. It just does not seem... suited for him. Perhaps they wanted a more emotional 47, so they went with more of a character actor than an actor star? That would make sense... if 47 was written or directed as more of an emotional character than any role Jason Statham could have ever played. Though according to a little digging, Vin Diesel was originally attached, but when he dropped, Jason Statham was offered the role. He passed, and it eventually landed with Olyphant.

But what I noticed this time through was how nothing made any freakin' sense. Let's look at the character of Nika. She's kidnapped and threatened with death multiple times. She despises Agent 47. But he buys him a sandwich, and the very next scene she's walking around naked, being playful, and calling him charming. Then she kinda goes back to screwing with him. But he buys her dinner (in the process of committing a hit)... and the next thing she does is try to have sex with him. And for the rest of the film is relatively smitten with the guy. Is she really that easy? And are the Russian police and/or military that stupid? They invade this killer's apartment when Interpol tells them directly everybody will die if they do so. And then at the end of the movie, they just randomly send in a helicopter to shoot through the top of the church where they know 47 is at with the President (and/or double)... and they start shooting regardless of who is actually there, hitting the President's body (and/or double) more than anything else. And then the helicopter just flies away...

But then you have your general plot points that were hardly explained or left really confusing. Did 47 shoot the double, or was the double the one that was alive? And since when were doubles identical twins? What was the big plan with the doubles, anyway? When he shoots the bodyguard at the beginning, why does nobody flip out? Why does the second body guard just stand perfectly still, staring off into the distance? Why does the President just calmly look around, and then directly in the distance where 47 is? And you can't say because they were in on everything... because then why would they need to do the whole doubles business? I still don't understand the whole point behind the doubles. Why was 47 so shocked he was being set up if he apparently had this big elaborate plan from the get-go (he had to have the key that Whittier gets in his case when his room is raided, knowing he'd used it, etc., but at the point of packing for the mission, he wouldn't have known he was going to be set up). The places he hides his guns make no sense. What if somebody found them in the ice machine while he was away? What if his hit went into the wrong stall in the bathroom attack? And what if the Russian police dude didn't use the radio (unlikely, I understand... but still. Back-up plan)?

I will give it up to its visuals, though. The director has a nice eye. It's inconsistant, but it's definitely there... something to be said about his other works, as well--Frontier(s) and The Divide. There's some really good shots mixed in. And whenever there decides to be action, it's pretty decent. Nothing is incredibly fantastic, but it's fine. There are definitely moments where it could have shined--like the subway car fight with the other hit men. But it needed a better eye for action to really pull that off. And despite all the incredible plot and/or logic holes behind them, 47's methods of doing his hits were often entertaining. The ultimate plan at the end, while full of an insane amount of holes and/or contrivances, is a kind of Ocean's 11 kinda thing where a bunch of small pieces just fall into place, and you at least have to respect a cool factor, even if it doesn't make sense.

Regardless of all the negatives, it's not a terrible movie. It just had a lot of potential to be something much better than it was. I felt if it maybe went for more of an adaptation of the first game's story--an origin mystery--that would have worked a lot better. From what I've heard, a lot of the problems I have are not the director's fault. He had a different film ready, but at the last minute, Fox forced re-shoots and then brought in the dude who recut Live Free or Die Hard to recut this in order to make it more commercial... which completely nullified Gens' ideas for both this film and its potential sequel (including the character's origins). I did watch the unrated version for this review, which is bloodier and has a tiny bit more nudity... but that's about it. Nothing that would have shown Gens' original vision without the reshoots and whatnot. Oh well... I guess that's just Fox.

Stop Saying OK! OK.

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