Hitman: Agent 47

After running through his five favourite and least-favourite video game adaptations recently, Andrew Brooker returns to let us know why Hitman: Agent 47 is not the film he expected.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

hitman“Don’t put your faith in me.  You’ll be disappointed.”

In a weird way, I’m a little disappointed. I’m disappointed that Hitman: Agent 47 wasn’t the steaming pile of dog shit I went in expecting after reading a few reviews. I’m disappointed that I don’t get to lose my nut at how offensive the film is to the game it takes its inspiration from and the gamers it’s trying to court into cinemas to see it. But most of all, I’m disappointed that the latest attempt to bring Agent 47 to the big screen is so forgettable as a film that I simply can’t be bothered to gather up the energy to get annoyed at it.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not stupid. I know that a game series primarily about sneaking yourself into a place, killing some unknown dude and sneaking out again unseen would make for a fairly boring film. Clearly the paint-by-numbers guys at 20th Century Fox feel the same because while there are flashes of the game series’ great style, Hitman: Agent 47 is absolutely more about the smash, bang and wallop of car chases and explosions than it is about stealthily poisoning some poor, unsuspecting villain without anyone ever knowing you were there.  But almost to its credit, the film doesn’t go down the “everything has gone wrong, now the super-sneaky ninja dude has to go loud” route (see 2007’s Hitman and almost every killer-for-hire gets revenge movie). Instead just settling for trying to convince us that this is just how the game is played. It’s not.

The story, for want of a better word for the thing that keeps us going from one elaborate death scene to another, focuses on Katia (Boss’ Hannah Ware), the daughter of the geneticist who is singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the mythical “Agent” program; a bit of 1960’s jiggery-pokery that changed the DNA of unborn children and making them stronger, faster, tougher and smarter than average people.  It’s absolutely nothing to do with Dark Angel, the sci-fi TV show that came out the same year as the first Hitman that also featured barcoded super-soldier protagonists.

On the run for most of her life, Katia is now being hunted by not one, but two different organisations. Mr 47’s ICA – strangely not mentioned by name in the film, just by their iconic logo – and the imaginatively named Syndicate International. The latter have sent their own contractor, John Smith, to do their dirty work.  A man who is the result of their experiments to try and recreate the Agent program and has a few secrets (or not, if you’ve seen the bloody spoiler-filled trailer) of his own to help him along the way.

John Smith; in maybe the most bizarre casting choice this year with Star Trek‘s Zachary Quinto; doesn’t rescue Katia as much as he does capture her so he can locate her father.  Ripped from Syndicate International’s grasp by Rupert Friend’s Agent 47 (replacing the late Paul Walker early into the film’s production) and having her world turned upside down as he explains who she is, what her father’s work really involved and maybe most importantly, what he did to her when she was young. Experimenting with altering her DNA to make her survival instincts second to none, turning her into the hyper-sensitive paranoid mess that’s kept her alive and free all this time, he’s made her an Agent.

And so begins a cat and mouse chase across the world as the pair of assassins try to outrun Smith and his Syndicate henchmen. All while racing to get to Katia’s father before the massive organisation can torture the secrets of the Agent’s DNA out of him and create a super-soldier army of nigh-unbeatable hitmen.

Hitman: Agent 47‘s biggest problem comes in its attempt to imitate one of the greatest stealth games ever made.  A game that I have, on more than one occasion, wasted more than the length of the film in trying to get past one kill, or get around one group of guards that I don’t want to face head on.  It’s ironic that the parts of the movie that remind me the most of the games; an exceptionally hostile area that 47 and Katia must navigate without being noticed is a great example; are the parts that while enjoyable, are the most infuriating parts to watch as a fan of the franchise. The tension, the trial and error nature of an area like this is what makes the games so great.  But on the big screen, while the feel of the games is there and those of us that have successfully steered their way through scenarios like them will be smiling in recognition by the end of it, it’s just all too… easy.  Every costume change, every time the light shines off of 47’s garrotte, the film got a brief smile from me but it was quickly wiped from my face when the action was ramped up and suddenly I’m watching a game of Audi vs. motorbikes.

As an action film, Agent 47 is relatively competent. It could do with its pacing being tightened up a little but it certainly delivers in all the areas that you would expect it to. Action scenes are visceral and violent, with enough gruesome deaths to fill a Saw reboot and decent enough hand and gun action. Hitman certainly delivers the fun, loud parts of the wannabe franchise starter in spades and doesn’t shy away from putting a bit of blood on the screen.  A little twisty and turny, the story does an alright job of keeping these scenes together and in check and while obvious to most, the surprise twist of the end was still a decent nod to the effort some of us have put into just getting one clean kill in the film’s inspirational video game franchise.

Hitman: Agent 47 gets a sly recommendation from me, if you want to switch your brain off and watch a poor man’s Transporter for a couple of hours you could do worse. But if you’re going in with hopes of a faithful recreation of an iconic stealth death simulator, I’m afraid we’re now hanging our hopes on Michael Fassbender and next year’s Assassin’s Creed movie. Considering the amount of effort that went into turning the story into a Hitman film, that effort would have been far better spent writing an original story to tie to kills together, keeping it away from the judgemental eyes of gamers everywhere and perhaps starting a franchise of the strength of the film, and not its inspiration’s name.  Because this, my friends, is not Hitman.

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