Saturday, 5 September 2015

Hitman: Agent 47; Maybe the other 46 were better

There was a time when Hollywood adapted great works of literature, but now they’re adapting comic books, kid-lit, computer games, boardgames and even text message icons. Hitman: Agent 47 was lucky enough to open in the same season as Pixels (capsule review; the inventor of Pac-Man screaming at the end of the trailer “Someone annihilate this stupid thing!”), but that’s about all it has going for it. Hitman is either an adaptation of a computer game or an attempt to reboot a movie from 2007 which fell flat on its face. Or it’s both, which is pretty much as bad as it sounds.

The 2007 version featured, on the one hand Timothy Olyphant (in between being Seth Bullock and Raylan Givens), and on the other hand Olga Kurylenko (during her “costumes are for frumps” phase). Olyphant had a bad year between that movie and Die Hard 4, and seems to have decided being the deadliest sheriff on TV had worked once, and would do for the next while. I honestly can’t tell you anything else about that movie, other than that there’s a scene where they try to demonstrate how inhuman Agent 47 is by having him completely ignore Olga Kurylenko lying naked on a bed, and just succeed in making everyone involved with the scene look stupid.

Anyhow, even though 2007 should have taught them that if Raylan Goddam Givens couldn’t make it work, nothing could, someone blew the dust off the script and hired Rupert Friend and Hannah Ware to do it all over the hell again. I am convinced that they cast those two actors on that basis that their names made good jokes, and that the performances were pure good luck. Rupert Friend, playing the deadly assassin who turns out to be a friend, does his best with a role which probably only Keanu Reeves could have saved. And Hannah Ware, playing a character who is literally unaware of her destiny, adds at least one dimension to a character who was probably written with less than one. Slumming around the edges; Ciaran Hind, gamely pretending that he cares enough to try to sound like a Ukrainian refugee with lung cancer; Thomas Kretschmann, underplaying the big boss so hard that he disappears into the carpet. Which turns out to be the most dangerous place to be, given that Zachary Quinto spends the back half of the movie chewing any carpet he can find. Also present; a zillion expendable mooks for the name characters to slaughter. Half of them literally are faceless, showing up in armour which always includes gas masks and visors; the other half are only more marginally distinguishable than the identical light grey suits they all wear. Collectively they perform like Imperial Stormtroopers suffering from jet lag.

Other than that, it’s the Matrix crossed with the Terminator; there’s a saviour for humanity who’s being chased by hordes of interchangeable agents and has just one special agent trying to save her. The most novel thing about the whole movie is that at one point they crash a helicopter into an office block and it doesn’t explode. Normal Hollywood standards are resumed a few minutes later when Ciaran Hind blows up an even bigger helicopter with an improvised bomb the size of an asthma inhaler. Consistency is for wimps.

This is the kind of thing where you know it will be stupid going in, and you’re just hoping that it will be imaginative and bold enough to distract you from how stupid it’s being. Instead I got something which allowed me all the time I needed to ponder the rampant insanity of a whole pack of hitmen who always wear black suits, white shirts and red ties and have shaved heads with a bar code on the back. And who all look identical. They’re like a security agency’s wet dream; an enemy which you can programme all your computers to spot on sight.

I mentioned Keanu a moment ago; John Wick was the perfect example of what Hitman  doesn’t get right. Implacable, emotionless killer wiping out hordes of mooks in what you can almost call a violent ballet. The big shootouts in John Wick just work; the shootouts in Hitman feel like they’re demonstrating the efficiency of the rag doll physics in the game engine; oh look, another guy just got shot and fell over a railing into another railing and then into a jet engine, flopping realistically the whole way. Look at the frame rate! Look at the way the blood gushes out when that guy falls into the completely inexplicable meat grinder in the middle of the jet engine factory!

The worst part of the whole experience was the guys about eight seats down from me on the same row, who greeted every splat-tastic death with the delighted chuckle of a toddler who’d been given another scoop of ice-cream. If we actually had the kind of surveillance technology which movies take for granted, it would be a good idea to point it at the audience of movies like Hitman and mark all the gigglers for special handling.

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