So once again we have survived.

Hitman

Timothy Olyphant (the bad guy from LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD [aka the killer from SCREAM 2 {SPOILER FOR SCREAM 2}]) plays a gentleman by the name of Forty Seven, who is a super badass hitman who does nothing at all in life except kill people for a secret organization that has something to do with the church and that raises orphans to be assassins and tattoos bar codes on their heads and makes them stay bald and dress like Dick Cheney. And although the movie has some enjoyable moments I feel like a movie that’s about that should really be more enjoyable than this is. And I’m sorry to say it but I think I have to throw some of the blame at the casting of Mr. Olyphant.

He’s a pretty good actor and I usually like him, but there is a major problem here: he doesn’t look good bald. I really believe that when they had him all signed on and were excited and then started fitting him for his costume and shaved his head and looked at him they must’ve thought oh shit. What have we done? There are plenty of people who can pull off bald: Samuel Jackson, Jason Statham, Telly Savalas, Patrick Stewart, Louis Gossett Jr., Montell Williams, Isaac Hayes, Gordon from Sesame Street, etc. And then there’s everybody else. I’m not saying Olyphant looks like a freak or anything, but he doesn’t look cool, it doesn’t look natural. This is a guy who should not be bald until God or cancer tells him to. And every time he’s sneaking away from an assassination, trying not to be captured or killed by Interpol, the Russian Secret Service and everybody else in the world you keep wondering how it is that nobody can spot this weirdo with the bald head and the tattoo on the back wearing a spotless black suit with a blinding red tie. I know it’s based on a video game and that’s where they get the look from, but come on. Super Mario would have an easier time not getting spotted.

HitmanAnd anyway if this UPC code has to be there then why doesn’t anybody ever scan it? They need to look at his file so they scan his head. Or he is being hired for an assassination and he meets the client at Target and they use one of those price checkers to scan his head and it shows how much it will cost so he doesn’t have to say the figure out loud. I don’t know man, but if you’re gonna put something stupid like that on the main character it should be used for something at least once. For example Charles Bronson carries a harmonica in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and he plays it. He doesn’t just carry it around. I heard that in THE NUMBER 23 Jim Carrey wears a saxophone around his neck all the time and never plays it. So there is a precedent for this. The Schumacher Precedent. Is that really the standard you want to live up to, whoever-made-HITMAN?

Anyway, there is one scene where he does realize that he sticks out like a sore thumb and should wear a disguise, so he steals some kind of uniform (looks like a shriner’s outfit) but then, in the grand tradition of Lando Calrissian in disguise at Jabba the Hutt’s Palace, he takes off the hat to reveal himself to the camera. And to expose his identifying tattoo and head. You know, for a guy trained his entire life to do nothing but this, he should probaly be more competent.

And I don’t know about this character. Other than having some cool moves he’s not cool. He doesn’t fight for anything that’s right, he doesn’t seem aware that his life is a tragedy, he only makes one joke and it’s not funny, he seems to be afraid of sex, he’s weird and socially awkward but not in a funny or scary way. And Olyphant is dedicated to this portrayal but he doesn’t find a way to make you like the dude anyway.

So I’m glad the guy can pay rent but I gotta blame the casting, because maybe if it had been some Charles Bronson type charisma in there it could’ve transcended the crappiness of the movie. But you also gotta blame the filmatists. This is a movie that feels DTV from the very beginning. It does have more cool things that happen than most DTVs, but stylistically and storywise it’s a dead ringer for the Seagal spy intrigue pictures like THE FOREIGNER, SHADOW MAN and a little MERCENARY FOR JUSTICE, or some of the recent Wesley Snipes pictures. It’s got the white flashes, the dreary European locations, the awkward rhythm to the editing, the busy BOURNE-ripoff score, and according to IMDb it even uses stock footage (not sure if it was fixed for the uncut DVD I saw but apparently some of the opening montage was recycled from the TV show DARK ANGEL).

The narration that explains Forty Seven’s background is pretty funny. He tells us he works for a group “so secret nobody knows it exists,” but also that it’s “known only as ‘The Organization’.” Which is it, baldy? Is it known or unknown? How bout you say “it would be known only as ‘The Organization,’ except nobody knows it exists, so it’s really not known as anything at all, and even if it was, nobody would know the right name, so even if you talked to somebody who was in The Organization they wouldn’t know what you were talking about, because it’s really not called The Organization, and even they don’t know it exists anyway, because nobody does”? Hmmm, maybe not. I’ll need to streamline that a little.

But early on there is a scene where the movie transcends mere stupid to the type of absurd that I love. Forty Seven gets surrounded by a bunch of other bald UPC heads. This would be a good time to line them all up and do inventory but instead they all point two guns at each other. When Forty Seven asks if they would like to die with dignity they agree and ritualistically pull back their guns, empty the cartridges, drop the guns, and reach to the back of their suits to pull out two full sized swords! Must’ve been uncomfortable running around with those things in there. And then there’s a big sword fight on a subway. Now we’re talking! The scene honestly did turn me around and convince me that I was watching my type of movie, but the rest of the movie did not really live up to that promise.

When it’s only interested in over-the-top action like this that’s where it manages to be better than DTV. There’s a long sequence full of homages to Olyphant’s nemesis John McClane – bare feet, swinging through a window, shooting a bunch of guys from the top of the elevator, etc. There are occasional clever ways to kill people like a guy with a bomb in his neck or some guns hidden in an ice bucket in a hotel hallway. In this cut the violence is pretty graphic, lots of blood that splatters unneccessarily far, heads that explode when shot, a digital arm-hacking, a severed ear. Also you get a few boobs. Remember those? They used to show them in movies. You’ll recognize ’em.

There’s enough to make the movie watchable but not enough to make it very memorable. There are blown opportunities. In one scene he has to flee the hotel stripped of all his trademark gear, down to his underwear, not even wearing shoes or socks. I thought aha, this is gonna be good, this is like Mel Gibson at the beginning of PAYBACK having to build himself up from nothing, pickpocketing and petty thieving to get himself an ID, a credit card, a meal, a suit, a gun. I love this type of shit.

But nope, Forty Seven just walks into a building, off camera, walks back out fully-clothed again. Never mind.

I’m not sure really what they were going for with this movie. There’s nothing wrong with a generic assassin movie, but it has to be better executed to transcend the lack of originality. And there’s nothing wrong with adding some weird touches like this whole secret backstory, but personally I thought the backstory was pretty stupid and never was explained very well or applied much to the story. It just seemed like they had to mention it because it was in the game and nerds would get mad if they didn’t.

I would say that somebody still trying to rip off John Woo movies was a nice gesture, but the doves I thought I saw in the trailer were not in the movie. So maybe I imagined that. I guess it’s nice that somebody is still trying to make a movie like this at all. At least the camera wasn’t shaking around too much. Nice try, I guess. Keep practicing.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, March 16th, 2008 at 2:53 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Videogame. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Hitman”

  1. So, what do you guys think of the new trailer to AGENT 47? I think it looks dumb. None of the subtle dark comedy from the videogames seem to have survived which is a real shame because it looks like more generic PG-13 nonsense with big explosions. The guy who plays 47 seems a much better choice than Olyphant, though and some of the setpieces looks fun in a dumb way.

    As a fan of the videogame I am offended, but it looks like it could be fun. I am cautiously optimistic.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8fr9YD-OUg

  2. Yeah, dumb but potentially fun describes it accurately. I’m not holding my breath though. Not only because the writers’ resumes include MACHETE KILLS, SWORDFISH and the first HITMAN, and the director has no other IMDB credit, but also because I don’t really agree that New Guy is a better choice than Olyphant. Not that Olyphant was a good choice but still. New guy doesn’t look cool either, can’t pull off bald much better, isn’t convincing as a tough guy. And I’m sure he has a real name that’s neither New Guy nor Generic Brand British Actor, but still, he’s like a charisma-less mix of Orlando Bloom, Paul Bettany, Kevin McKidd and Jude Law posing as Vinnie Jones or Jason Statham and ending up looking like a secondary character from The Office with guns and a red tie.

  3. I don’t understand why it’s been made really. From my vague memories of the first movie it just looks like the first movie again, is there really a great demand for this character to be captured on the big screen in 2015? I could understand it if they’d managed to re-snag Vin Diesel after it didn’t work out first time or if they’d got a Statham or someone else with a built-in audience, but as it stands this just seems unpromising to me both as a film and as a commercial proposition.

  4. Hitman as a series has kinda faded into obscurity a bit, the last game in the series was in 2012 and it hardly set the world on fire, the last one that got a lot of attention was almost 9 friggin’ years ago, so why another Hitman movie and why now?

    and @Shoot McKay: the dark comedy is a big reason why I love that series, it was hilarious dressing 47 up as a clown in Blood Money.

  5. The character of 47 isn´t very charismatic in the games. He is quite generic looking because he is made to blend in and from what I recall a clone of sorts so it makes sense to cast someone who looks generic and bland. I think this actor might work in the role.

  6. What is sad is that this franchise, even HITMAN:ABSOLUTION is being forced into conventional ideas. The reason why the games are so good were the missions themselves, the freedom of choice for the player to carry out the contract killings which could create some twisted and morbid moments. The games were also more episodic in structure with a minimum of a red thread connecting the missions. They never had much focus on a larger narrative which I felt was ABSOLUTIONS worst sin. ABSOLUTION consisted of many “missions” connecting to each other in which evading the police were your main objective instead of carrying out hits. The story was nothing to brag about anyway so the whole point of the narrative felt flat and contributed to anything. Which was a shame, because when the game was good, it was really good.

    I can see this franchise work better in a less mainstream environment as a low budget exploitation flick where you can allow having a pure sociopath without forcing attributes or elements to the character to lighten the otherwise dark content. Ever since the first movie, the filmmakers and game developers have insisted on 47 helping women in need. it is the classic forced movie convention to try to make the character more likeable to a bigger audience. It all rings false to me.

  7. I guess one of the problems with adapting HITMAN is that yeah, the main character is kind of a blank slate, which works fine for a videogame, not really for a movie. But it looks like he might be the antagonist in the new one so who knows, it might work. If not, we can only hope they’ll finally do the right thing and hire Arnold Vosloo or Billy Zane when they re-reboot it.

  8. Yeah, that movie was irredeemably bad. The AGENT 47 movie on the other hand, was “just” mediocre and had at least SOME fun and at times even inventive set pieces. Also Zachary Quinto is a surprisingly good action movie baddy. And they passed by the bladness of the Hitman character, by making him more or less a supporting character.

    In conclusion, none of these movies is worth your time, but the 2nd one is less shitty than the first one, although the first one has a better cast.

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