I love video games and I love movies. You’d think video game movies would be a match made in Heaven for me, but let’s face it, we all know it rarely works out. Anyone who’s sat through Silent Hill or Doom can tell you that even if the game rocks, it’s likely the movie adaptation will be a catastrophe.
Comparisons are futile then. Movies will almost always luck out. I absolutely adore the Hitman games so I knew the only way to watch this fairly was to disassociate the two. As luck would have it, this is easy in this instance; besides the iconic ‘look’ of its hero, the film bears no resemblance to the games whatsoever.
The over-convoluted script weaves a familiar plot in which the eponymous assassin – Agent 47 – becomes embroiled in a unfathomable and tedious conspiracy after realising that there’s a hit out on him. To find out who called it, he kidnaps his original target and together they bust up an international crime ring that (surprise, surprise) goes all the way up to government level. Gosh. Never seen THAT before.
But this is, after all, an action film. We’re not here for an original or inventive story. I could deal with the bunk script – ineffectual dialogue and all – were the film full of breathtaking stunts, mindbending pyrotechnics and stylish ultraviolence that makes my forehead jut out, my eyes bleed and my muscles explode just from watching. But no, Hitman looks like a piece of crap. It’s both as exciting and aesthetically pleasing as the local Post Office queue on Giro day.
It seems to be going out of its way to deceive the audience into thinking it had a much lower budget than it really did. French hack director Xavier Gens, having demonstrated he doesn’t understand the horror genre with the overwhelmingly derivative Frontiere(s), now exhibits a fundamental lack of understanding about the action genre. A film that takes place in largely lavish locales – posh hotels, expensive restaurants, official buildings – needs to look glossy. You, as the viewer, need to want be that guy in the designer suit with the neat guns. You want to see the sheen of the twin silverballers as Agent 47 whips ’em out and plants a silent bullet in the head of some unexpecting perp. You want to see the neon lights reflect in his perfectly shined shoes as he uses a fibre-wire to strangle his way into an exclusive penthouse club.
Instead, Gens directs like he thinks this is part of the Saw franchise. The film is artificially made to look gritty, ugly and scuzzy; he refuses to hold a shot for more than half a second; everyone looks washed out and grimy. I’m not saying that look doesn’t work for anything but it’s the wrong look entirely for this kind of movie. See War or Cellular or XXX to see how it should be done, visually at least. The weak script was clearly banking on the film’s look to hold it up. All I can say is, “oops”. No wonder Fox weren’t happy with the end result.
To add insult to injury, Gens doesn’t appear to have the natural talent to even pull off the style he’s chosen. The clumsy, derivative execution is just alienating to the viewer and manages to create an almost complete detachment from the first scene (set in “London, England” although no part that looks like anywhere I’ve ever seen there). I found it really difficult to keep my eyes on the screen and follow it. I just wanted to look away. It gave me a headache.
Of course he also fails to direct any of his actors in a way that makes them engaging either. Various unrecognisables phone in their insignificant parts, loading on the embarrassing fake accents galore, whilst Timothy Olyphant as the Hitman might as well have been CGId for all he brings to the role. He doesn’t even look right, let alone play it well. There’s better acting from the dude in the game and he’s NOT REAL.
Finally – not content to rip off a movie just once – Gens can’t resist throwing in a bunch of post-Hostel torture sequences as well, including a prolonged whipping of a fully naked woman, which makes me wonder how even in its “extreme edition”, Hitman strolled into the BBFC’s office and came out with a commercially acceptable 15 certificate (fans of the game’s “stealth element” take note of these mad skillz!).
But don’t worry guys – it’s all okay. It’s only a woman who gets tortured after all, and although she’s been subjected to years of systematic sexual abuse, she finds Agent 47’s charms (i.e.: bundling her in the back of a car with a corpse) irresistable and is soon flirting with him, demanding sex and asking him to use a gag on her for foreplay. She can’t get enough of it, you see. Neither can any of the other women in the film, all of whom are prostitutes, junkies or both. Either way, they exist purely to be slapped, dragged and thrown around by protagonist and antagonist alike. Beating up women is not even something reserved for the bad guys. It’s just something you do when you have money and/or power. Perk of the job, you could say. The whole film’s attitude towards women is depressingly neanderthal. Even for the genre, the misogyny here is notably spiteful and makes what could’ve just been an unwatchably dull and bad film into something altogether more distasteful and vile.
I usually like to write objectively and find good things to say even amongst the bad but I’m afraid there’s not a single element of this film that I enjoyed. It was a slog to sit through, each and every wasted, useless scene. As a result, and to make my life a bit brighter, I’m happy to pretend this never happened and just look forward to this year’s release of the fourth Hitman game.