One of these days, Hollywood is finally going to do what it’s been trying to do for decades now: turn out a video game adaptation that is not only a critical success but also a box office smash. The fact that the industry has failed on both accounts literally every time they’ve tried is, apparently, not enough to stop the powers that be from hoping that, seriously, one of these days, eventually, somehow, someway, a video game will be turned into a great film.
Given the increasingly cinematic nature of the video gaming art, it’s something of a surprise that no one has managed to come up with a truly great movie based on a video game. Sure, the Resident Evil series is an ongoing cinematic concern and fun enough in its own silly way. And there are a few underrated gems to be found if you poke around long enough: Silent Hill is a moody, creepily shot action-horror flick with better-than-average performances that even most genre fans have overlooked.
But mostly there’s crap. And onto the burning pile of crap we can add the corpse of Hitman: Agent 47. It’s not just that the movie’s bad—though it is: jarringly shot and borderline incoherent action sequences surround a plot that is explained to us not once but twice yet still manages to not make a great deal of sense. It’s that the movie’s entirely unnecessary.
"Unnecessary" in the sense that we’ve already had a Hitman movie, as you may or may not recall. As far as these things go, it was pretty okay: Timothy Olyphant shined as the titular killer in this 2007 action-thriller, though the script was a nonsensical pastiche of conspiratorial thinking. It did modest business, grossing a hair under $100 million worldwide on a budget a quarter that large. That’s not enough money to demand a sequel, but it is just enough to inspire dreams of a reboot.
Which brings us to Agent 47. Rupert Friend steps into the title role, playing a genetically modified super-killer who has no emotions and heightened senses. As we’re told in a voiceover during the opening credits—and again later on, just in case we didn’t get it the first time—the man who created the Agent program has disappeared. A shadowy multinational corporation—it’s always a shadowy multinational corporation; see also, The Gunman—wants him tracked down so it can restart the Agent program and take over the (apparently lucrative) business of assassination-for-hire.
Agent 47 is also trying to track down this scientist. In order to get to him, he’ll first have to find the disappeared geneticist’s daughter, Katia (Hannah Ware). Forty-Seven (Mr. Seven?) has been tasked with killing both of them, though by who is never entirely clear. We see him occasionally talking to a mysterious minder/taskmaster named Diana (Angelababy) on the phone and we see her dispatch another Agent later on in the film, but those are our only clues to the organization the agents work for.
Perhaps I missed the explanation because I zoned out, as there wasn’t much onscreen to maintain my attention. Apart from a relatively impressive opening sequence set in an office building that appears to have been modeled on the Guggenheim Museum, the action scenes are haphazardly shot and poorly stitched together, relying on a handheld "frenetic" aesthetic to cover up the fact that very little planning seems to have gone into their construction. John Wick this ain’t.
So here we have another video game adaptation that critics will largely dismiss and audiences will mostly ignore. Hollywood is, undoubtedly, undeterred. Maybe their adaptations of Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted, coming next year, will break the video game curse. But I’m not holding my breath.
Published under: Movie Reviews