Monday, May 26, 2008
(Image from IMP Awards)
I took away two things from 'Hitman'. One is that Timothy Olyphant is pretty cool even in relatively mediocre fare (though perhaps not so much in Die Hard 4.0). The other is that Olga Kurylenko is smokin hot and her gratuitous nudity in this will undoubtedly give Hitman's DVD sales / rentals a boost once people see the next Bond movie, in which she plays the Bond girl. Okay fine, there is a third thing. Video game adaptations seem forever destined to be relegated to 'crap to decent' in terms of quality. 'Hitman', based on the successful video game series of the same name, tells the story of Agent 47 (Olyphant), the best of the best in a secret 'Organization' of assassins. Hired to kill the Russian president, 47 seemingly succeeds, only to discover that he has become ensnared in a complex conspiracy and is now being pursued by both FSB agent Yuri Marklov (Robert Knepper), Interpol agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott), and his fellow assassins from the Organization. The key to clearing himself and getting back at those who set him up appears to be a prostitute, Nika Boronina (Kurylenko), whom he nabs before beginning his quest.
Directed by Xavier Gens - who apparently had the film taken away from him by the studio during editing - 'Hitman' is a fairly stylish film that in terms of production values is up there with the best videogame adaptations (that is, it's up there with Tomb Raider). It opens with a promising sequence depicting the assassins of the Organization training from early childhood before jumping forward to show us Agent 47 in action. The plot is actually quite straightforward but the screenplay manages to deliver it in an unnecessarily messy manner. None of the narrative threads are particularly compelling, and when you consider that the film is mostly devoid of any substantial characterization, it becomes apparent that the writers were the first barrier to quality (source material be damned). Gens action scenes are competent enough if uninspired, though Olyphant is great in them and makes them quite entertaining, particularly with that weirdly nonchalant gait of his. The film's not afraid of a little violence and mayhem either, always a plus in a shoot 'em up. Olyphant is the star and he delivers a good though necessarily one dimensional performance. Olga Kurylenko is surprisingly good (and easy on the eyes) as the feisty prostitute. Everyone else is forgettable, though it was funny to see Henry Ian Cusick make a small appearance as a Russian arms dealer - far removed from his role as Desmond in Lost, brutha!
Overall it's a decent action film that goes by fairly quickly. It won't impress, but it won't make you wish for your time back either. It doesn't do anything to improve the status of video game based movies, and I'm not sure what fans of the game will think - based on what I've seen of the games, they involved a lot of stealth and deception and sneaking around garroting people, not running around guns blazing. Actually, the kind of style seen in the games might have made the film more interesting, though the massively superior 'Leon' has already explored similar territory. This ain't no Leon, but on the other hand it ain't no Double Dragon either! It's more like Tomb Raider, only with violence and nudity, which is always a plus...