As I previously covered in the article about the rebooted 2015 follow up to this film - “Agent 47” - Hitman’s bleak concept in the video game franchise is often played upon by also having a sense of humor that gives a certain levity to the situations shown in the game. As the series has gone forward it’s gotten a lot more complex in both its storytelling and lore. Like most franchises do. But never lost its sense of humour. Yet...
Game Over #11: Hitman
Dir: Xavier Gens
Box Office: $99,965,792 Worldwide
My vague memories of this 2007 attempt at a feature film based on the games was exceptionally generic and frequently po-faced. And much like the follow up - somewhat missing the point of what made “Hitman” the games they are. I saw it shortly after its release and at this point have all but forgotten it’s contents other than it’s main actors.
As I’ve gone on about this video game film coverage over many weeks, I’ve mentioned the all of these gaming films have surpsingly been directed by European talent, except one. So far in fact only the 1994 Street Fighter film was directed by an American.
This was however certainly continued by Hitman, directed by Frenchman Xavier Gens.
There tends to be either a particular style the studios expect of these Euro film makers and/or the films tend to be shot in various European locations. Hitman certainly ticks both of those boxes easily enough.
Likewise much like the years later reboot, the writing was done by Skip Woods - which doesn’t have me holding out much hope on the content of the film. Much as I attested to his track record last time. Woods seems to dabble in constant cliche, his scripts feeling frequently like copies of other films that have done the same ideas but better. And then adding his own brand of weird plot holes and nonsense to boot. So I’m expecting an abundance of this in Hitman as well.
The more I look into it though I’m actually kinda surprised about two things about the release of Hitman. Firstly it was generally considered a success - well seemingly. It’s budget was quite small (reportedly just $24 million US Dollars) and yet it grossed just short of $100M worldwide in box office takings. And thus, that is why the fact it got a reboot follow up rather than a direct sequel within a couple of years also quite interesting as well. Instead of fast tracking a follow up, it took several years later for Hitman: Agent 47 in 2015. It’s lucky that the game franchise itself has stayed reasonably consistent as a brand over that time to allow that to happen.
But was the reboot due because this film was just self contained, was it that wrote itself into a corner where there was no where else to go, or was there bigger issues that required a do over? Let’s find out.
The movie opens with background info on the agent project. Apparently this wasn’t in the original script and was changed at the end of production. Seemingly changed so late in fact some of the footage is supposedly recycled (as always, only if the Internet is to be believed) from Fox’s early 2000's James Cameron co-created TV show Dark Angel. The one with Jessica Alba in it... and seeing as it had to do with super soldiers, I can see the possible easy grab there if true. Anyway this happens during the opening credits where we see bar-coding tattooing and training of the young assassins going on, flashes of the Hitman logo from the game franchise, all while Ave Maria plays over the top - the early blatant connections to the games, especially as that track has been used in some of them as well.
We then move to “LONDON - ENGLAND” where someone gets out of a car and goes into a house. His home it becomes clear, where we see his agency badge. The power doesn’t seem to work, and he comes across a body covered in a rug - before a lights flick on and Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) reveals himself at a desk. He wants to talk to the guy who he names as Mike, but hasn’t killed Mike or his family because of the info he wants to talk about. But he warns if Mike crosses him they all will die.
With this in place the story opens specifically as a complete flashback being told by 47, about a killer that Agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) has been chasing that is referred to as a “ghost.” They are working for a group only known as “The Organization” that is supposedly “so secret no one knows it exists.”
I already am rolling my eyes at this statement. 47 says this to Mike as if he’s actually known rumors of “The Organization” to exist at least.... except that’s clearly not possible if no one knows if the group exists or is even known as “The Organization” well... to anyone other than 47 who has yet to say he’s any part of it. You can’t be throwing around “so secret no one knows it” like that.
Nor does it explain how people even request work to be done by them either... how you can you contact an organization for hire that is so secret no one knows it exists? Ouch. My brain hurts already.
Anyway ignoring this stupidity, it makes professional killers open for contracts by anyone, staffed by assassins who were raised to be the best killers possible - what we saw in the opening - and the very best of these killers is the person, or rather “ghost,” who Mike has been looking for.
We’re taken back three months earlier to a shanty town in Niger, where someone kills a warlord and his gang by planting an explosive inside the warlords brother... who the warlord wanted to kill for stealing something. Clearly the guy who put the explosive in the guys throat it is 47. This then obviously makes the person Mike is looking for and 47 are one in the same. No mystery here. Sure enough the next scene is the Interpol agent, Mike, talking to the local Federal Police about the attack, where we find out he’s been chasing the “ghost” for three years all over the world.
From the Map we head to a hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia where 47 is having a drink in a bar, and awkwardly avoids the attention of a woman at there before walking off back to his room. Pointless scene. It’s supposed to show he’s awkward around women, but we get that later on anyway easily enough. I guess we had to be introduced to him somehow though.
He sets up several protection measures throughout the hotel and within his room to stop any people coming for him. He has a shower and then sits down to check his assignments on the computer, via his contact Diana (another game connection). His next target, Russian president Mikhail Belicoff, has been requested to be taken out publicly when 47 had planned a subtle killing. Which he now has to change his plans for it, while being made aware of Belicoff’s brother - Udre - a known drug trafficker. Clearly that’s all going to become important later. Thanks foreshadowing.
The next scene gets the job done quick. As Belicoff arrives to an event, 47 shoots via a sniper rifle taking out a body guard to create confusion and clear his aim, them immediately taking out Belicoff straight away as well before anyone can react. He quickly packs down his things, leaving a detonating device inside the rifle case to leave no solid evidence behind. He then heads to depart via Rail from St. Petersburg Central Station. But before he can leave he is told to contact the office who inform him there was a witness to his work who is being collected by Interpol, who he’ll need to stop.
47 heads for the woman, Nika Boronina (Olga Kurylenko), but when he gets close - aside from him noticing a tattoo on her face, he realizes she doesn’t recognize him at all and something odd is up. Before he can react further, someone is shot in front of him and it’s revealed another bald and bar coded agent is trying to take him out via sniper rifle from a rooftop- indeed in the cliche of all cliche’s of being an organization agent, he’s been setup by his own people. As the crowd panic, 47 calmly walks off, gets into a car, and somehow easily escapes.
“Interpol Mike” has now arrived in Russia, but the info he talks about seems to say Belicoff wasn’t killed - but grazed - which doesn’t match up with what we saw. Likewise video footage from the ground that Mike watches doesn’t show the shot hitting Belicoff. But instead it shows a lot of blood spray on another body guard when Belicoff was shot, which increases Mike’s suspensions that something odd is going on. To make matters more odd to him a picture of the shooter has surfaced, which says the he’s been identified staying at the Grand Hotel. Mike is stunned that someone got a photo of the guy he’s been following for three years and never seen once. Again, clearly 47 is being setup for a fall.
Back at the hotel 47 is informed about Belicoff’s survival, even though it makes no sense to him (and us) at this point. When he asks about who ordered the hit on Belicoff, no response is given on the computer and 47 is very pissed off. Outside everyone has arrived at the hotel ready to take out 47.
The Chief Agent of the FSB, Yuri Marklov (Robert Knepper), has arrived. He has ordered the Military Police Chief and his armed men to head inside and take out 47, even though Mike and Interpol are supposed to be in charge. Indeed they all ignore the Interpol guys and the team is ordered to undertake the attack. Of course we all know it’s going to go badly for them.
Diana calls 47 directly on his phone, against orders, giving him a heads up on what is going on. Belicoff’s hit was ordered by.... Belicoff? But just as this as revealed - the team attack outside. As expected it doesn’t go well for the armed forced, who are taken out by an explosive trap 47 had waiting on the door. 47 himself avoids the explosion, diving out the window grabbing hold of a rope secured earlier for his escape. He swings down and smashes through a window into a hotel room below where two people are playing... Hitman on the TV. I don’t even.... why?
47 collects some guns he hid in an ice box we saw him check earlier, and proceeds to take out more guards through the hotel making his escape. He also smashes the fire alarm to set it off, which surprisingly DIDN’T go off during the GIANT FIERY EXPLOSION earlier... somehow? And then kills a bunch of the armed guys in an elevator, which he sends back to the ground floor as some sort of distraction or... maybe a message? I’m not really sure. Because it doesn’t really do either.
Mike catches up to 47 on the 3rd floor easily, but 47 gets lucky and manages an escape by the chance of a hotel cleaning staff member coming out blocking the path of Mike possibly shooting him. I only mention this in detail as... well this is just plain dumb. Somehow she’s ignored the explosion in the hotel AND the fire alarm going off... and is just continuing her work as normal?
Whatever... you crazy woman. Or bad writing... Anyway, after avoiding Mike shooting him due to her - 47 escapes through a room and jumps into a river outside the building, getting away.
Back in 47's hotel room as Mike questions how many officers 47 took out (16 is the answer) while one of the local officers doing scene exam touches 47's laptop which wipes it before Interpol agents can look at it. Was that intentional? But a suitcase of 47's has been left behind for them to look through. Inside are numerous weapons and supplies. Mike takes a listening device and bug and puts it into his pocket, but before he can look at the rest of the items anymore, Yuri arrives and the two disagree over whats going on, with the FSB chief acting all shady. Of course.
Meanwhile out on the streets, 47 buys himself a new suit and jacket and decides to go looking for the woman, Nika, who was named as the witness earlier. He gets some flowers and heads to her apartment, which was in the profile he got on her earlier on. He pulls up in an Audi, which is not explained at first and gets out. In any case he gets her to open the door by saying the flowers were sent by Belicoff, before grabbing, threatening, and then forcing her outside and into the boot of the car. Where there was a dead man left inside she is left in the boot with. This treatment of her is a trend that will be repeated again and again.
He brings Nika back to some safe house/warehouse and asks her about Belicoff, getting unsatisfactory answers. But before possibly killing her he asks about the tattoo on her face. Then after asking some more about Belicoff’s brother, he then reveals the Audi was Belicoff’s drivers car - who was due to collect her and he was the dead man in the trunk. To make things worse the driver was also supposed to kill her. With her forced help now he plans to finish the original job he was supposed to do - kill the current Belicoff who’s been making public appearances - and find out who is behind it all.
Meanwhile the local authorities have setup road blocks and blocked all international exits, both air and train, to stop 47 escaping. Agent Mike has decided 47 will likely instead head further into the country, using the only train station still open - the domestic one. Indeed he is correct, as Nika and 47 are at the domestic station. 47 orders Nika to meet him at the end of the platform and they split up.
The following scene is actually quite good, if highly convenient that they all arrive roughly at the same time. 47 is being followed by the other bald agent who shot at him earlier, and and the Interpol agents are also in station as well. 47 steals a uniform and disguises himself as a member of the rail staff, grabbing the other bald agents attention - who the Interpol agents follow thinking he’s the bald man/47 they’re after. At the same time the FSB agents, including Yuri, also arrive, making it even more complicated for Interpol.
47 escapes the other bald agent, and instead sneaks up on him and takes him out of action, but doesn’t kill him. For some reason he tries interrogating him, although I think he knows this is pointless because of the same training he went through. But before he can push him further, he realizes others are around the train yard,. Eventually three more bald agents also appear, drawing them all into an admittedly cool looking four way stand off.
Instead of shooting they drop their guns and go for bladed weapons, in what 47 refers to as “dying with a little dignity.” Then launch into a semi-decent blade and fist fight. 47 dispatches of two of them fairly quickly, eventually defeating the third after a slightly lengthier battle - killing him by strangling him with his own belt - and proving he is indeed the better assassin of them all. It’s certainly worth watching unlike most of what’s happened so far even if it feels like action padding.
He boxes up his dead opponents in a shipping crate so no one will find the bodies anytime soon, and returns to the guy he left earlier. Still not getting answers from him, he kills him - before realizing Nika was there watching the whole thing. However the Interpol agents arrive. 47 stops one from killing him by shooting him in the arm and holding him hostage while Mike confronts him... but 47 shoots Mike in the chest and knocks the other agent out with the butt of his gun. Nika stops 47 from killing Mike and they instead flee. Of course this was going to happen as he couldn’t die... because 47 is talking to him months later.
On that note however, the weird writing comes out here again. If 47 is recounting this to Mike at the start of the movie, and well after him being shot... then why did he describe the “ghost” Mike was chasing for three years as if it was someone else? Mike clearly knows it was him at this point because they met before at the train station (and again later). Unless the “ghost” is really the whole organization or the many bald assassins being classed just as one guy. But that’s not how it was worded, especially when 47 said he was looking for the best killer which we assume is him. Ugh. Brain... hurt... again.
Anyway, in an ambulance outside it’s revealed he had a bulletproof vest on. The FSB Chief Yuri tells him the “killer is dead” referring to the other bald agent 47 left behind, and threatens Mike and his associate. He tells them they can be commended in his report and safely escorted to the airport to go home, or be hung out to dry for disobeying the local laws if he chooses to ignore the FSB request to leave. Unsurprisingly Mike chooses the latter, roughing up Yuri a little in the process, and storms off.
After escaping 47 is instead driving the Audi from earlier, with Nika back in the boot. In the middle of nowhere he lets her out finally, drags her to the front seats, throws her in and gives her something to eat for breakfast. It’s all attempted forced humor in the dialogue between them which doesn’t play off as such when he’s constantly threatening and forcing the woman to do these things.
In another bout of Wood’s lack of thinking that keeps coming across in the script - this whole thing also makes no sense. Earlier Mike was told the local police had three solid roadblocks out of the city and you’d think these would have been stepped up after the events at the domestic train station. But somehow 47 and the Audi now slipped through.
Also if they could just have driven out this easily why even bother going to the train station to begin with? Especially when every single person after 47 knew exactly where to go to find him? For a guy who has been great at not being found at all for years and years, he’s done a terrible job today. He might as well have been wearing a rainbow coloured suit with a neon arrow above it to try stand out less at that point.
This also might actually have worked had Nika been the one driving and 47 hid in the back, as the authorities weren’t looking for her and the only agents who saw her were the Interpol ones - who wouldn’t likely have told anyone local due to the FSB. This isn’t just movie logic and goes beyond nitpicking, it’s just really really bad writing.
Anyway after this lengthy detour the movie can move... sideways now? Inside the car 47 seems to threaten Nika still for “interfering” with his work. Instead Nika explains her background, that she is... (was?) Belicoff’s property, purchased for just $300 USD. We get a flashback of Belicoff torturing her for trying to escape one time, with additional full frontal nudity for attempted added impact - but comes off just more shameless than that.
Back at the FSB, Yuri is pissed at the way things have gone, and ends up on a secured phone conversation. However we find that Mike bugged Yuri when he roughed him up a bit earlier at the station and is listening to whats going on. He is doing it by using one of the 47’s listening devices he stole from the case, and his Interpol associate got working for them.
They realize the guy Yuri is talking to directly is Belicoff himself. If the audience was half-asleep I think they could have told Yuri was in on the deal the first time he turned up due to the way he was acting, but this somehow surprises the Interpol agents entirely that is even possible (although clearly Mike knew enough was up to put the listening bug on him!?). However before they can react further they are interrupted by some armed thugs working for the FSB turn up and tell Mike they have to be escorted to the airport.
Meanwhile 47 and Nika are now in Moscow, where Nika waits at a bar and passes a phone to a guy who walks in and sits down across from her by a window booth. On the phone is 47, who is watching through a sniper rifle across the street. The guy informs him off the record that indeed the organization wants to get rid of him, and confirm what 47 suspects - that Belicoff was replaced with a double of some sort. Finally the plot is actually moving forwards slowly. It’s only taken about 50 minutes.
The guy seems to be a CIA agent, and he and 47 negotiate a deal for to kill Belicoff’s brother, Udre, for the CIA in exchange for something 47 requests in a file but that we don’t see. 47's way in is to kill a guy called Price, a German arms dealer who Udre has never met but is about to do a deal with, then go in as Price and make his move. This is all to happen in Istanbul.
We arrive at hotel in Istanbul where Nika roams around almost completely naked, making 47 very uncomfortable. He’s going over the files, and then tells Nika to get dressed because they’re going out to for dinner and to get her something nice to wear.
After some scenic shots of them walking around, 47 stops them outside of a place he was looking at in his files and tells Nika to wait while he goes in to have a look. However as soon as he goes inside, she seemingly decides not to wait. He finds out when Price will arrive there, 8pm, and then goes outside to meet Nika who turns up asking him why he took so long. I don’t understand the need to have her leave and come back straight away like that. It does nothing for the film.
Now back in London, the Interpol guys have returned to HQ and have come to the conclusion that Belicoff has at least one double, because he appeared at two events in the one day some months earlier and no one noticed this fact until now... I’m not even going to start on how silly this reveal is. Really. Just no.
Dinner is now on with Nika and 47, which leads to some flirty cute banter between them after 47 grabs a guys drink off a waiter, which was going to Price’s table. It was his plan, as he spikes the drink later causing Price to go off to the bathroom to be sick. 47 leaves the table, pissing off Nika, and heads to the bathroom. Two of Price’s bodyguards are hanging around outside, and 47 is body searched for weapons before he’s allowed in - where Price and another bodyguard are inside.
However he’s hidden a gun and a syringe of something inside one of the toilets in a shade of The Godfather (Lucky it wasn’t the one Price is using! Did he put one in each stall just in case?). He takes out the three bodyguards, and injects Price with the mystery syringe, before leaving dragging Nika behind him leaving the location quickly after. Back at the Hotel, a drunk Nika makes the moves on 47 who protests awkwardly, and before anything can happen injects her with something from his pocket which knocks her out.
47 now goes to the meeting with Udre Belicoff, which is to take place at his mansion/possible night club which was in advance of when they were supposed to meet. Udre is snorting down cocaine like it’s going out of fashion and surrounded by several women wearing little. He seems slightly peeved at first about the unexpected arrival, but he allows “Price” to come and sit with him to negotiate their deal - after he and his briefcase of money and drugs to trade are checked by his several thuggish bodyguards that is.
You can already see the setup for a shoot out action scene being made. It doesn’t help that Udre is then tipped off by one of his guards that 47 isn’t Price (somehow - unexplained), which is clearly going to escalate the whole thing very quickly. Udre pretends to talk about the guns on sale spread out on the table in front of them while clearly setting up to kill 47. But eventually the whole thing kicks off when he shoots at 47 and misses.
47 quickly throws a gun at his head, and then throws the suitcase of Price’s money/drugs on the table - which explodes, showering everywhere. He then loads and picks up the machine guns directly in front of him, shooting every guy (but amazingly none of the girls in the room) in a bunch of, mostly, slow motion gun-porn.
What felt like maybe seven guys quickly descends into what feels like 47 killing a couple of dozen, eventually even blowing up one guy - and the bar he was behind - with a grenade, and injuring Udre in the process. He begs to know why he’s been attacked by 47, who asks for his help with his brother. Udre agrees to do anything, which for 47 means just one thing. He shoots him in the head. Fade to black. It’s all above in the video anyway.
We get some soppy scenes back at the hotel and also following with 47 and Nika driving the Audi back towards Russia which do little but setup the fact Nika wants a vineyard to live and work on, and 47 finally decides to ditch the car.
Mike has the case of 47's back in London, sent by the Military Police Captain as a token gesture, and is only now looking in detail at the rest of the stuff inside it. The thing that’s caught Mike’s eye is a giant key with a what looks like Latin religious inscription on it, which conveniently his Interpol partner can immediately translate when he can’t. Lucky that.
47 and Nika have now ditched the car and are on a passenger train, but 47 is now telling Nika he has to leave to kill Belicoff. He orders her off the train at the next station, while he also finally tells he he has no name, just the number he was given - 47 (which unless I’m wrong is actually the first time this is even mentioned in the entire movie!) - before departing himself.
Yuri returns after vanishing for the past half hour of runtime, walking into a morgue meeting with Belicoff... or as it’s revealed, Belicoff’s double (who I will now call Belicopy!) rather it seems. It seems he wanted both power and control against the real Belicoff’s shifting political allegiances for his own ends. The only loose end left is 47.
Yuri name checks “The Organization” sending its best men after him (if this is the ones he already killed, or more is left vague - but him mentioning them proving it’s not secret at all unlike what 47 said to Mike earlier in the film), but the Belicopy is holding Yuri accountable for taking him out.
Back in “Interpoland” Mike’s been stone-walled by the Russians - led by Yuri, members of the EU, and other parties are asking him to be blocked from the situation. Even as it comes in that Udre Belicoff has been killed. Someone left a convenient TV running in the background announcing the funeral for Udre, allowing Mike to put 2 and 2 together for... 47. He is going to kill the Belicopy at Udre’s funeral. Lazy film writing 101 right there.
Yuri gets some comeuppance at the FSB headquarters, which is conveniently entirely empty at night except for him. This then allowing 47 to pull out almost every spooky horror killer trick in the book (like cutting the power, making noise distractions, flashes of moving past, etc.), before dropping down from the ceiling, strangling and dropping Yuri - knocking him out unseen.
Yuri wakes up in filled bathtub, where 47 has left him trapped via chain and barbed wire - with an generator attached. Yuri is to order the shooting of Belicopy via a radio, taped to his hand, when a countdown clock reaches 2.30pm. Or else be killed by severe electrocution. 47 leaves it in his hands to decide, giving him a rubber duck for company (in another shoehorned game reference).
The funeral. Belicopy arrives. Crowds, armed guards, etc. Inside Interpol has arrived, clearly thinking Mike’s logic is sound (and somehow being okayed by the Russians). But then he is told there is “over 100 highly trained alpha special forces soldiers” in the cathedral to stop their guy and their assassin is likely too smart to try. So do they actually think Mike is right about the attempt? Or not? I’m kinda confused. There is also gas canisters, which will incapacitate everyone but hopefully stop any other casualties with civilians should something happen. Okay... setup for something later anyone?
Inside Belicopy addresses the
army audience while another bald hitman sniper watches the crowd, and Yuri tries calling through to him. With less than 20 seconds left, he manages to request the change to the sniper. However there is a glass shield in front, which the sniper has to shoot three times in order to break and gives time for the double to move away. Everything goes chaotic, the gas is released on the crowd as Interpol and the security team for Belicopy all move out.
As the security team make their escape, they are taken out by one of the soldiers in a gas mask... clearly 47, who knew this was going to be his easiest way to actually kill the Belicopy. With his guards dead, 47 drags him via his throat, taking out any other armed forces with ease and moving upstairs.
Outside Mike is informed of what has happened and he realizes that this was the plan 47 had from the beginning, thanks to the key matching the outside of the building. Indeed with the key, this was likely his original subtle stealthy plan for getting rid of Belicoff before it was changed to be public way back in the first place.
Back upstairs 47 enters the Archbishop’s chambers and gets into a fight with the other hitman - who was the sniper for Yuri earlier. He takes him out in a fairly one sided piece of hand to hand combat, eventually stomping on his head for good measure. Yikes. Belicopy tries to talk 47 out of killing him by offering his old life back, while armed agents swarm back inside the building, ready to try and take him out.
While Interpol plans to go inside, a general has ordered a gunship to shoot the upstairs of the building which arrives just as Belicopy fails to talk 47 out of his plan, and is shot in the head. The gunship shoots the hell out of the room (and Belicopy’s body - what would they have done had he still been alive?) as 47 hides under a large heavy wooden table and avoids being shot.
The gunship takes off without anyone confirming 47's death for some reason (?), and he pushes Belicopy’s body out of the chair he was in - taking over his position. Sitting and waiting. In what might be the most creative shot in the entire film, the camera tracks back and goes out through the large keyhole - where armed men are ready to blow the doors wide open on the other side.
Interpol arrives just in time though to arrest 47, using the key to unlock the door rather than blowing it up. 47 looks smug when they arrive - having seemingly planned for this, and armed men lead him outside and put him into a truck.
However as they depart, they are blocked by a bunch of CIA Agents, fronted by the man from earlier in the film at the bar in Moscow who identifies himself as “CIA Agent Smith.” He distracts the Interpol team, which gives 47 time to escape from the truck, before apologizing to the Interpol team for getting them supposedly confused with someone else while they notice 47 has escaped and vanished.
Now back where we began, 47 asks Mike if he thinks he’s a good person, and if he can how he can justify having to take others lives. His answer seems to satisfy 47, who just requests he be left alone. 47 reveals the man under the rug who is another bald agent in a suit, which 47 wants Mike to say was him - the man he was looking for. Mike is unsure he can go through with it, but 47 hopes he can - but leaves it up to him. With some thunder and lightning for dramatic purposes, 47 exits the house.
Back in Russia, Nika checks her mail to find paperwork for ownership of the vineyards she talked to 47 about earlier in the film. She looks around the street outside, hoping he’s watching. She doesn’t see him, but he is watching her... through a rifle scope. Turns out another agent had been sent to kill her, but he intervened. She walks away happy, and the 47 turns and disappears as the film fades to black.
The above quote is one of the producers of Hitman, Adrian Askarieh, talking about the film in the special features. I kinda want to agree with him about that statement if I could, barring two little... er... “minor” things.
Hitman isn’t a good movie. It’s a bad one. And yeah, I doubt that script was really that good either... maybe it’s kinda telling that he calls the script just good, when he calls the character and idea itself great.
If you couldn’t tell so far, Hitman ranks fairly low on my scale of video game films if we still describe it as such, but if we’re to go by Adrian’s standards.... it would rank fairly high on my scale of really bad movies too.
It’s “competently” crafted visually with a Euro style of a lot of movement, in which Gens was inspired by the camera following 47 in the games. And I see that. Although perhaps there is too many shots, especially early on in the film, of 47 walking to and from camera down hallways etc. So much in fact I’d originally called this article “Bald Man Walking” to begin with before changing it. Big chunks of the film are just that.
The actors too are just “there” I guess, no one does a completely terrible job, it’s what they have to work with. And so everything is just never... well... all that interesting. It just drags itself from point to point.
As I’ve mentioned time and time again the script by Skip Woods, just doesn’t dazzle here as I predicted. Much like the general mixed bag of work I’ve already seen from him, Hitman is very dry/bland, predictable and messy. Super generic, filled with some weird character beats, and any mystery almost always shows its own hand well before building up any real suspense in it’s plot.
There are limited mixed action scenes that mostly just “happen” - outside of some reasonably okay hand to hand fight work. Then there are needless plot lines and long stretches of the plot not really moving forward. And the giant leaps of bad logic and writing that just grates on me so personally as you could probably tell. Lazy cliche devices riddle the script from beginning to end, tropes from all sorts of action, drama, and even horror fill the run time, and most of the characters all run the line of cliche, bordering on caricature.
In short I would describe it in a sentence... An action movie with little action, a spy movie with little mystery, and even a horror without any actual horror in it.
While it’s not surprising that Woods’ standing got him other films, scripts, and bigger production roles... it’s still surprising another attempt at Hitman was even tried, regardless of it’s box office, with him writing again (be it however working with someone else on that follow up). Because the work put into this isn’t anywhere near brilliant. The only positive thing I can say is the “reboot” is mildly more entertaining than this film, but not by much, so at least they did slightly better? Is that a thing?
Interestingly I want to mention at this point it’s worth noting one other odd connection this film has with the follow up. As I mentioned in that write up - the intended actor for that film was Paul Walker, who died after being cast in the role but before production begun. This original 2007 release first courted Walker’s main Fast and Furious co-star Vin Diesel for the role of Agent 47 rather than Olyphant. But he seemingly walked away from the role for unknown reasons very shortly before production properly begun (he is still credited as, a possibly token, Executive Producer on the final film).
If the internet is to be believed it was also supposedly offered to Jason Statham as well (‘get me another well known bald headed action guy’ some studio exec probably said somewhere) but he turned it down.
The more you read about the final production, the more it seems like it was a fairly messy event after Diesel walked way. While the cast was locked in very quickly after his departure, and while it seems the original shoot went fine, Fox ended up delaying the film’s release and re-shooting several large parts.
As I’ve also discussed before, there was a very odd time where studios were turning very dark material into PG13 films for the box office. Hitman was another of those possibly in the making. Xavier seemingly fought for an R rating on the content, and while he was granted it... it seems Fox changed their mind on how strong this R would be or even tried reversing it. Between this and the reshoots, seemingly Xavier was removed from the edit by the studio and replaced, which the studio first denied but eventually was all but confirmed by some cast and other crew.
One of the major reshoots seems to have been a much expanded train fight sequence, mostly with the additional hitmen fight added. The original cut is on the DVD is only just two and half minutes long. The location is different, being outside - where as the final film is underground.
This is a perfect example of excess in the run time however, because all of the same plot information is contained in this short version. In the final film this whole section is probably around 12 minutes (which as I mentioned was a cool but seemingly needless fight which is probably 3-4 minutes alone). So had this been used in the final cut the film alone would have been near 80 minutes long! The 2:30 alternate cut not used is below.
Seemingly Xavier’s intended cut also left a lot about 47 unanswered, hinting at his origins only to be left to explore in a later sequel. But with the re-shooting and re-cutting this left no room for this to be explored as originally intended... given the films opening and 47's explanation on the err... hitmen origins in voice over. So this might explain why the follow up went the reboot style rather than a direct sequel years later, which kinda never touches much on it.
I can’t say the film really entirely wrote itself into a corner for future plots but there is a clear direction a sequel would have likely gone. They could have brought back the same version of the character in a different story, but it would have lost the elements him being involved in The Organization as clearly he has cut his ties. And it probably would have ended up being a revenge or search for his origins/background kinda deal mixed in with some other plot. Elements of these ideas do appear in the newer film anyway, but just not with 47's character.
In any case this film released in November 2007 as R romp, while later home releases were rated Uncut with being less about more run time (only an additional minute or so was added). Rather it was additional blood/violence cuts being the main difference, which I suspect was first cut to stop the film being rated even stronger than R. Being that I watched the home release, it was this version that I sat through.
As I mentioned earlier.... actors are all passable. No one feel miscast horribly, but they’re just delivering lines and breezing their way from many pointless scene to other pointless scene. Olyphant doesn’t feel like he gives any growth to the character other than softening a little for Nika, which is fine for the character, but it’s Nika herself that suffers the worst fate of anyone in this film.
She’s constantly written as a possession of men, from her first appearance to her last. Saved constantly, dragged around by her hair and throat, shoved into things, brought, traded, tortured, humiliated, flaunted, targeted to be killed several times, and all round treated like shit. Nor mentioning the required nudity for Olga’s role as Nika either. 47 treats her like crap for most of the time they’re together, but she clearly falls for him.
Even the end has her getting something she wanted at the cost of being still hunted by men, and protected by another. And that’s not even mentioning there was an alternate ending where she still gets killed! Shot in a drive by as 47 watches surprised from the roof tops.
Even in the behind the scenes footage Olyphant dances around the subject matter when asked about the character and her role in the film, just giving Kurylenko great credit for having to go through a lot to be the character in the film. I had really thought Olga Kurylenko had it bad in Max Payne, as a one note character who gets killed quickly. But her short role of there looks amazing compared to the crap her character goes through in this film. Strike this up to more poor writing I guess.
Really when you look back on the film on the whole not a lot also happens. It takes a long time for the plot to really get moving, when the audience already has many of the pieces. The run time is still only 90 minutes but there is possibly half that run time of actual substantial plot.
So, after all this where does that leave Hitman as a film adaption?
Adaption? Subjective. Amazingly.
The argument is that, early on especially in the Hitman games, 47 was a bit more an open interpretation of a character. That in not only playing him, but by the mystery of him not knowing his own background he could be a killer for a bunch of reasons and the growth of the character is intentionally limited. This is even talked about on the special features for the film. In that way they’ve taken some of the core elements of the character and world and built a plot around it much like the games do.
The movie dashes in numerous game references, be they images of things, sounds and music, specific props. We’ve established this doesn’t mean adaption. But because the movie never really gels on one genre, and never seems to go anywhere... does it make it an adaption either? He’s bald, he kills some people, he works for an agency for hits. The stories in the games have woven themselves out from the same core concept.
I’ve never seemingly felt that conflicted about one of these, and the only fair way is to say I think this really is as open to being interpreted as such by everyone. Personally to me it’s still a no - but simply because....well you know exactly why by now.
Positives? Shooting style, production design.
I know earlier I’ve said the filming was “competent” as if that was a negative, but it’s not. The look of the film is consistent, the shots good, the action - when it happens, is easy to follow. Everyone looks good, the even though large chunks of the film were shot in just Bulgaria, they manage to provide such a wide variety of locations.
Likewise the production design is very decent. Everything has a great craft and look to it, as does the wardrobe department. Olyphant looks sharp in his suits and cuts a good assassin figure by them (much better than Rupert Friend did in the role years later).
Lessons learned... Well, do I need to say it?
Script. Also possibly add - don’t hire Skip Woods alone for a screenplay. Just don’t. We should all know this by now.
Thankfully Hitman has continued it’s own path in gaming, and as mentioned continues to have a new life in a recent episodic series that seems to be doing reasonably well. Future games will continue to come, and thankfully for the brand - it survived a potential assassination of its own by this low-rent very dull action flick. Had it not, then I could only say the true “ghost” assassin they were really looking for after all was just the film’s writer.
Yup, it just really is that bad.
Next time - Aliens with zombies, and a dash of Alice in Wonderland for taste? Basically. Hell, there’s possibly the review right there in a nutshell.
#12 - Street Fighter (1994)
#13 - Silent Hill (2006)
#14 - Max Payne (2008)
#15 - Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)
#16 - Doom (2005)
#17 - Silent Hill Revelation (2012)
#18 - Mortal Kombat Annihilation (1997)
#19 - Super Mario Bros. (1993)
#20 - House of the Dead (2003)
About ‘Game Over: Failure of the Video Game Feature Film’
A series looking at the top 20 profitable video game feature films to figure out what is lacking and what should be done to make a successful adaption of game to film. There are a set of rules to stick by, so for an introduction on the whole series I’m doing please check out the original post located right here.
Movie fanatic, writer and publisher of numerous gaming and movie websites of the past, and former video game guide writer. Started making content in 1997 and ran or assisted with several successful sites, mostly in the realm of Horror and Survival Horror gaming through the early and mid 2000's. Includes sites such as ResidentEvilFan.com, Streets of Silent Hill, EvilGaming.net, SurvivalHorror.org, ShenmueDojo.com, VGN, Gamers Alliance, GamersLounge.com, and BHXnet/BIOHAZARDextreme among others. Usually under the name Rombie. Still occasionally appears around on old video game and Resident Evil forums and semi-frequently appears on the ProjectUmbrella.net Resident Evil podcast.
All images copyright to respective studio/photography owners. Used under fair use for critical comment on video game feature films only.