Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

Rated R for sequences of strong violence, and some language

Score: 2 out of 5

Hitman: Agent 47, the second attempt by Hollywood to bring the Eidos video game series to the big screen, is a misfire. There's no way around that. The plot is a nonsensical mess, the acting is hit-or-miss, and the main selling point, the action, is competently (though not spectacularly) shot about half the time and laughable for the other half. In other words, it's the sort of movie that's made for curling around the TV with three action junkies (my mom, and our family friends Peggy and Larry) and renting for six bucks on demand. It's brainless entertainment, there are far better movies out there, and to be honest, my favorite part of my experience watching this was hearing my mom say that this movie was better than The Raid: Redemption, a comment that did not warrant the dignity of a response (my mom really hates subtitles). But hey, if you stumble upon this on late-night cable, you won't be completely wasting your time.

I'm not even gonna try recapping the plot of this beyond the basics: something something genetically modified super-spies, something something gone wrong and the project's creator went into hiding, something something evil dudes trying to create more super-spies, something something one of the super-spies is now working as an assassin, something something evil dudes trying to find the scientist who created the super-spies in order to restart the project, something something the assassin is also looking for the scientist in order to keep him from the evil dudes, something something the scientist's daughter is also a super-spy who starts working with the assassin in order to find her father, something something plot twists. I've never played any of the games this movie was based on, but I know their reputation, and I'm pretty sure that the writers threw out 95% of their story in order to craft the ridiculousness I just tried to summarize. You get occasional nods to the games, like Agent 47's disguises and the scene where he and Katia sneak around a bunch of armed dudes, but while the games were stealth titles where it was possible to accomplish your objective without killing anybody except your target, in this movie Agent 47 just straight-up murders anything that moves and has superpowers that turn him into the ultimate killing machine. And I'll give the film credit: there are enough watchable action scenes here to enjoy on a basic level. Granted, there are also plenty that are ruined by bad special effects, incompetent fight choreography (I spotted the stuntmen whiffing punches on more than one occasion), and ADHD-addled editing that's clearly meant to work around the aforementioned choreography. But what this film lacks in quality, it makes up for in quantity, throwing enough crazy action at the wall that some of it did eventually stick. The car chases especially looked good, as I would've expected given how much Audi clearly shelled out for product placement, as did some of the more creative kills and the nifty architecture in the bad guys' Singapore headquarters. I can give the movie this: I wasn't bored.

And that was through no thanks to the creative side of this film. Save for Agent 47 and Katia, who both want to find Katia's father, nobody's motivations are all that clear. The evil megacorporation wants to restart the super-spy program for... reasons. Agent 47's employers are a nebulous bunch, represented in the film by a lady (played by a Chinese model/pop star who Wikipedia describes as the "Kim Kardashian of China") who does nothing except give orders to him and lay out the backstory in the intro voiceover. Trying to sort out the plot holes will leave you with a headache. The cast, meanwhile, is a mixed bag. I liked Rupert Friend in particular as the title character, a merciless killer who still has a few soft spots and occasionally gets in some great lines when the script lets him. Hannah Ware is decent as Katia, and I liked that the film made her a co-action hero rather than a damsel in distress. However, I was underwhelmed by Zachary Quinto as "John Smith", the evil super-spy pursuing Agent 47 and Katia. Having seen him do good work on Heroes and American Horror Story, it was disappointing how dull he was here, feeling like he was just on set for the paycheck. He was hardly the scary, intimidating villain that the movie was selling him to us as.

The Bottom Line:

For better or worse, Hitman: Agent 47 is a throwback to the "glory days" of '80s action flicks featuring unstoppable badasses mowing down wave after wave of bad guys. It's as shallow as a puddle, and it doesn't aspire to be anything more. It's Euro-action in the vein of Luc Besson at its cheapest, but if you're into that sort of thing, I can't fault you for watching this, because at the end of the day, it's still kinda fun to watch. Kinda.

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