10 years ago, Philip Noyce directed a movie that was based on an adapted character. He put this character in Russia, and got him embroiled in some political intrigue that's way over his head and should not have involved him in the first place. Naturally, our anti-hero (he's a professional thief by the way) bites back, using skills he honed to perfection, and basically relying on his smarts to escape near misses. His charisma ensured he had a beauty with brains tagging along, albeit reluctantly but given no choice with her involvement in the scheme of things, before forging trust, and possible romance.
His name? Simon Templar, aka The Saint.
Today, we have Xavier Gens taking a character, Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) based on an EDIOS game called The Hitman, and scribe Skip Woods' story has this best of the best (they always have to be) in St Petersburg to do what he does, and that's to carry out professional hit jobs at the direction of The Agency (are you quivering now?). He gets embroiled in a political conspiracy given his mark is a certain political figure, and has the Russian military, his own organization and Interpol (led by Dougray Scott's Mike Whittier) after his hide. Along the way, he saves Nika Boronina (Olga Kurylenko) a Russian call girl / sex slave from certain death, and in between finds himself in a very difficult romance.
Notice the similarities? It's The Saint all over again, except this time, Agent 47 resembles more of Jason Bourne, but without the hair, replaced by shiny baldness with a cartoony barcode tattooed at the back. He has a penchant for suits and trenchcoats, but only to hide his mean knives when he chooses to engage in more dignified battles. So unlike the suave Simon Templar, he opts for the obvious, and should have taken a leaf or two in styling and disguises from Templar, rather than walking around being the odd one out of a sea of hairy heads and a barcode that says "Hello World".
Anyway that's the character design from the game, so we can't complain about it can we, just as how Angelina Jolie had to have her ample assets enhanced to match Lara Croft's. But its similarity to the Bourne movies cannot be denied, in the way that both are professional assassins, and probably schooled in the same close quartered unarmed combat techniques, and the similarity even went down to how these action sequences were shot and edited - quick cuts, jerky hand held style.
It's action set pieces turned out to be rather ordinary, probably because they are rehashes of some classical scenes that we've seen before in other movies. Like the shoot em up with machine guns, the shattering of pillars and plenty of blow em ups with a rock soundtrack blaring in the background that we've seen in the Matrix movies. Or how about "paying homage" to Hong Kong movies like Johnny To's mexican standoffs in recent flicks like Mad Detective and Exiled, but done with less pizzazz and the proceedings and outcome bordering on the ridiculous. Or how about close quartered fisticuffs done while crouching under a platform, ala Jet Li's Fong Sai-Yuk? And how about a Saw's Jigsaw inspired moment to boot?
But truly the scene which took the cake, was one done in extremely bad taste. In referencing the tragic terrorist event in Russia where government forces used gas to literally put friend and foe to sleep before they stormed a theatre, this gets repeated here with cruel aplomb, and I thought it was quite insensitive of the filmmakers to do so, in the manner in which they did so.
If you can put aside all these misgivings, then you'll probably find something remotely to enjoy with Hitman. Agent 47 is bald Bourne, but he's not amnesiac, and having been brought up in an all male monastery, it wrecks havoc on his non-existent sex life, especially when Nika hits on him time and again, sans clothes. There are many sub plots and unnecessary scenes in this movie, but they remained so that this wouldn't turn out to be a short film, or feel part of the video game where you have absolutely no control over. Timothy Olyphant did a rather decent job as Agent 47 as the role calls for little emotion (i.e. nothing to do except alternating between cool and mean) with stuntmen making him look good. In fact, most characters were pretty one-dimensional, and Nika the call girl would have been every fan/geek boy's wet dream come true. If I should praise anything, then it should be the way villains are dispatched without the bullshit lapsing into monologues.
Video game movies rarely are hits, and while Agent 47 never misses a target, I would classify this one under a huge misfire. The story's ho-hum, the action very familiar and mediocre with a lacklustre effort all around. And I'm sure to walk out next time if the male lead tells the hot chick "don't worry about finding me, I'll find you, no matter where in the world you might be". Yeah right.