Aleksander Bach makes his directorial debut with Hitman: Agent 47, a 2015 flick based on the Hitman video game series. This outing isn’t a sequel to the 2007 thriller called Hitman, but both pictures feature screenplays by Skip Woods. As unnecessary reboots go, this is pretty standard fare.
Featuring cinematography by Óttar Guðnason, Hitman: Agent 47 has a sleek feel that suggests a well-oiled machine under the hood. There are a lot of flashy cars and there are many moments of high drama, with shootouts following shootouts and chase sequences erupting amid clouds of textbook assassins. The bullets are flying and the suits are freshly-pressed.
Rupert Friend stars as Agent 47, a cold and calculating killer. He’s tracking Katia (Hannah Ware), a woman who is looking for Dr. Piotr Litvenko (Ciarán Hinds). The good doctor was responsible for the creation of a program to craft super-soldiers, which is where Agent 47 comes in. Katia is headed off by a man calling himself John Smith (Zachary Quinto). He presumably saves her from 47’s onslaught.
But things are not as they appear. Katia has a deeper relationship with Dr. Litvenko than is believed and John Smith is not John Smith. What’s more, Agent 47 has some tricks up his well-tailored sleeve and all hell breaks loose as the characters try to pick through the pieces. Along the way, the Syndicate watches and 47’s handler (Angelababy) works the phones.
Friend is an interesting choice as Agent 47, but the only real task he has is to look halfway decent with a shaved head. He plays the unaffected “character” well, never once forgetting that Agent 47’s main role is to serve as a channel for the commands of someone else. This is pure gamer paradise and Friend always knows how to not react.
Quinto is stuck and it shows. He rattles off ceaseless couplets of clichés, like when he’s trying to have a building “sealed off” or when he’s explaining the danger of 47 to Katia, and his character doesn’t have any sort of meaningful internal dynamics. He presents a moderate physical challenge to Agent 47, but the amount of excuses made around his character’s survival gets a little excessive.
And Ware is given little to do apart from look good, which is troubling considering the nature of her character. She’s supposed to have a certain set of abilities and at one point it’s alleged she’s superior to even Agent 47, but this is seldom approached. For the most part, she resolves into old-school nurturing patterns and lets the boys sort out their differences with hot lead.
If Hitman: Agent 47 has something going for it, it’s its inherent commitment to the source material. This is a movie that looks like a video game, complete with extravagant setups in hollowed-out factories and the use of the ever-ready garrotte to do away with drab thugs. That 47 acts like a drone is no accident; this is one film that commits to its empty desires.
There are some dubious moments, if one is into dissecting Hitman: Agent 47. At one point, the agent trades a knife for a kid’s inhaler and makes a big kaboom with it. And there really is no reason for the dude to have so many jet engines lying around, even if he does have a thing for pitching baddies through their reeling blades.
Guðnason manages some interesting shots, like when he focuses on hands after the audience is introduced to Katia or when he employs some delicate angles to stick 47’s sniper bullet in just the right place. Regrettably, most of the action scenes are of the jumbled variety with Bach taking a slice-and-dice approach via Nicolas de Toth’s editing.
Hitman: Agent 47 isn’t an overly memorable movie, but it does mostly succeed at what it sets out to do. Despite some incoherence when the bullets fly and notwithstanding an unfortunate roster of flat characters, Bach sticks close to the video game genus. He doesn’t try to do too much, which is no small marvel in this world of overfed blockbusters.