Reel Rewind – Hitman

Hitman (MA)

Directed by: Xavier Gens

Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko

Two and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

Since Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue disgraced the silver screen with Street Fighter (1994), it has been a regular occurrence for film studios to make film versions of popular video games. The last time this happened, the film turned out to be an overlong, overblown and incoherent mess. That movie was Silent Hill. It was popular with the teenage boys who stayed up late playing the game on their consoles, but everyone else was left scratching their heads.

Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is a highly trained gun for hire. The Organisation scooped him up at a young age and trained him to be a lethal killing machine. He was bred from the world’s deadliest criminals, but raised by an exiled brotherhood of the church. He is the best and he has been hired to kill a Russian politician, Mikhail Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen).

But things go awry when the man he has shot in the head in front of thousands of people appears on television the next day. Not only that, but his anonymous employer informs him that there was a witness, a prostitute named Nika (Olga Kurylenko). When Agent 47 goes to take the witness out, he discovers she was hired as bait to lure him out in the open to be assassinated.

Caught up in a political conspiracy, he must try to save Nika – who has now become a target – and find out who has set him up him and why. But what Agent 47 isn’t trained for and doesn’t expect is the stirring of his conscience and the unfamiliar emotions aroused in him by the Russian woman. Hot on his tail is the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) and the Russian military who come to blows about who has jurisdiction in taking down the hitman.

Action films don’t have much depth to them and those based on video games seem to have even less. The dialogue and relationships in this film are strictly superficial, but what can you expect? In a time when every American summer is flooded with huge budget, large-scale, computer generated imagery films, there is a lot of competition and directors have to strive to create something special. Inexperienced director Xavier Gens has failed to inject this routine action with enough pizzazz to distinguish it from dozens of others of its kind.

About the only thing to note about Hitman is the action sequences which are impressive – particularly one fight scene on a stationary train. Timothy Olyphant is serviceable as the agent, a role intended for Vin Diesel. But comparisons to Jason Bourne keep arising and this character simply isn’t as interesting or as charming. The script could have fleshed out the conflict he feels between his attraction for this woman and his training to be emotionless, but it does not.

As appeared in Examiner Newspapers, 2007.

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