Hitman: Agent 47 review

The second attempt to bring the Hitman videogame series to the big screen doesn't quite hit...

It’s probably best to concede from the off that, whilst Hitman: Agent 47 does have very clear threads to the videogame series it’s based on, clear concessions have been made in the second attempt to bring it to the big screen. The Hitman games, at their best, are quiet and tense affairs, where the build up, the stealth, the quiet execution and slipping away uncaught fray your nerves and leave you squirming in your seat.

The new Hitman movie doesn’t do that. In the inevitable push to be a mainstream movie franchise – yep, there’s a mid-credits sting setting up a future film – it more than edges away from those margins, and ups the action ante. Not quite to the extent that the gunfire-filled trailer hinted, but still enough for at least a few people to cry sacrilege. Arguably rightly.

But it does add up to a passable enough action movie. Not a great one, but not dull either. 

Hitman: Agent 47 does have many of the modern hallmarks of the modern action film, mind. There’s a plot that the characters seem barely invested in, so the audience has little chance. The characters themselves are similarly interested in things that aren’t really that interesting. Then there’s Skip Woods’ screenplay, which is an upgrade on his work on A Good Day To Die Hard, but still too often resorts to dialogue that feels like it could be written on motivational posters around the office.

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Yet credit where credit’s due, there are sparks of life in Hitman: Agent 47. Its opening, for instance, is a sleek sequence where cars are ambushed in an impressive manner. A later vehicular-based scene also sees a car held up in some style, although the sequence is squandered by some standard movie red shirt nonsense. Going back to that opening again, one thing it also does is a quick, brutal exposition dump to explain the Hitman world, and then it just gets on with things, not bothering whether you took it all in or not. Turns out in this case, that’s not a bad strategy.

Furthermore, director Aleksander Bach emerges from the film with some credit. He refuses to over-edit his action sequences, making them effective without being over fussy. His colour palette is well chosen and reflective of the game himself, and his hunt for interesting angles tends to be rewarded. Furthermore, Hitman: Agent 47 has some strong location work, finding places to film that action movies haven’t lingered too much on in the past. A skyway sequence in particular is really well shot, held, and as a consequence, effective.

Less impressive are the cast, who either don’t get much to work with, or don’t make the most of what they are given. Rupert Friend to be fair is a good screen presence here as Agent 47, and the screen interpretation of the character very much plays by the rules that the games have set down. He’s cold, calculating, logical and doesn’t cheat. Coming off the back of this summer’s Terminator: Genisys in particular, that’s an admirable quality. Sadly, the character remains a bit forgettable though.

Zachary Quinto, meanwhile, gets very short shrift as ‘John Smith’, an underwritten character with some admittedly very smart clothes. Quinto does what he can, but he’s not a miracle worker. Hannah Ware, as Katia, actually sits at the heart of the story we’re given, but it does take her time to settle into the role. She’s fine, but Hitman: Agent 47 is crying out for someone more old style Sarah Connor-ish, and Katia isn’t it.

Still, on balance, Hitman sets itself relatively modest goals, and generally manages to achieve some of them. If the aim here was to pack a decent enough, forgettable action movie into 96 minutes, and not leave you utterly averse to a future chapter, then it’ll do, but not much more than that. It’s frustrating, though, that more work on the story could have given us something far more interesting.

Rating:

2 out of 5