Adaptational Abandon: Hitman

Video Games have become the target of several adaptations in the past two decades. For whatever reason the people of Hollywood rarely signal out tight story driven games like Deus Ex or sprawling epics like Fallout. Instead they often choose nigh plotless violence fests like Street Fighter or Double Dragon or Doom. I would guess that they think that this gives them free reign with the concept, but in actuality it just pisses off many of the series fans no matter what they do. You could make a pretty decent Fallout or Deus Ex film just by streamlining the narrative a bit, but instead they tend to make up something entirely different and just use the names. But are video game adaptations utterly devoid of quality or is there an occasional diamond in the rough or at least just something vaguely watchable. That, ladies and gentleman, is something I intend to find out.

For the first iteration of this series I am reviewing the 2007 adaptation of the Hitman series. When I found out that they were making a Hitman movie I…well I didn’t know they were making a Hitman movie. I didn’t realise it was coming out until a mere couple of days before hand when I was watching some late night T.V and the trailer aired. In addition, at that point I hadn’t played any of the Hitman games. I had only heard a little bit about the series. But now I have become far more experienced with the series and Hitman: Blood Money has become one of my favorite games and I have recently viewed the movie.

Timothy Olyphant was cast as the infamous Agent 47. Olyphant is able to embody the coldness and occasional bit of dark amusement of the agent, but he doesn’t quite have the same kind of physical presence the character has in the game. But I am appreciative of the fact that they didn’t cast some overly muscular action hero like Vin Diesel as the protagonist. Ulga Kurylenko is the woman he drags a long to get information from and protect. She isn’t quite a love interest due to Agent 47 being completely asexual and thankfully she isn’t completely insufferable. She is occasionally useful and isn’t merely a damsel. The rest of the cast is utterly forgettable.  The actors really don’t stand out but no body really embarrasses themselves with their performance.

Agent 47 has his patented silverballers, bar code tattooed to the back of his skull, and suit from the game. Plus his suitcase holds all of his standard equipment. Though they do change his entire clone back story to him being a small child when he was taken in and brainwashed. This change was incredibly pointless though because it all turns out the same anyway. The agent gallavants around St.Petersburg(a location found in the series) and wears a couple of disguises. However, Agent 47 doesn’t exactly attempt to get silent assassin in the movie. This movie has a pretty large body count but 47 at least approaches most situations tactically.

This movie has some pretty fantastic hand to hand combat for a western action film. There isn’t any of that terrible shaky cam and quick cuts that made the Bourne films and chunks of Batman Begins utterly unwatchable to me. You actually get to see nearly every blow and the camera stays calm and refuses to start bouncing around. The hand to hand combat is fast and incredibly brutal. Also a sudden curb-stomp at one point actually made me cringe. Xavier Gens really shows off his action chops in this movie. Though some of the action scenes come off as a bit nonsensical. At one point he grabs a target in the bathroom and attracts the attention of his bodyguards. 47 shoots them with his silenced silverballer and injects  the target in poison. Why? How does that make this any less obvious to the police? Does he think that the police will think the poisoning is unrelated? It would have actually been smarter if he shot the guy too because the police would think this was work done by some untrained psycho, but the poisoning makes it seem like an assassination. This is really the worst possible way for him to do it.

The biggest problem with this movie is that it really does seem to miss the point. Hitman isn’t an action game. It is one of the few stealth games and the film really doesn’t reflect that. I can almost understand Vin Diesel as 47 because in this film he just kind of mows people down. He approaches some situations tactically, but at the end of day agent 47 isn’t supposed to spend his time gunning down mooks. The strange thing is that the writer, Skip Woods, isn’t bad at adapting things. He wrote the A-team movie and it matched the heart and ridiculous fun of the 1980’s TV show. Sure it was pretty flawed, but at least it understood what it was adapting, while this film evidently doesn’t.

In the end it is a watchable, mostly generic action film with an interesting protagonist. It fails to be different from other lightly budgeted action faire but if you like action schlock as much as I do it’s definitely worth a look. However, it did make me think of how much potential this thing had to be more.

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