The best video game adaption film, in my opinion, will always be “Silent Hill.” Perhaps I’m a bit biased being a part of the “Silent Hill” fandom, but there was something so artfully beautiful and disturbing about the 2006 film. From its performances, to the production values, down to the screenplay, it is all top notch for a horror film and especially for a video game movie. Yet, the opinion of video game movies in Hollywood is not always a favorable one; it even is sometimes a furiously angry one. So here, we have a rare thing in Hollywood, a second chance, because “Hitman: Agent 47” isn’t the first film based on the acclaimed video game franchise. In 2007, Timothy Olyphant filled the shoes of Agent 47 in its first cinematic incarnation, “Hitman,” which premiered to abysmal reviews and really solidified the place of video game movies in Hollywood. Now, Rupert Friend fills the shoes once filled by Olyphant, but does it even matter at this point?
Yes and no.
Yes, because there’s actually a lot of mindless enjoyment to be had in “Hitman: Agent 47,” with a prime focus on the word “mindless.” With second unit direction from David Leitch, co-director of last year’s sleeper hit “John Wick,” it should be apparent that “Hitman: Agent 47” should have some good action in it, and it does. The film takes a glossier sheen to it than the original film, and it pays off with a clean, expertly staged and occasionally beautiful movie.
Friend in the role of Agent 47 is also much better this time around too, playing a much more believable character than the likable Olyphant did in the first try. I found this to be a strong point of the film, as well as Hannah Ware. Ware plays Katya, the daughter of the man who created the “Agent Program,” a program of highly trained and programmed assassins used in high profile killings that subsequently was shut down. Now, another company, called Syndicate, wants to find her to reach her M.I.A. father to restart the program. Ware does well as Agent 47’s counterpart, and does so in an equally badass fashion, even if it’s less polished.
So does the plot make sense to you? Because it probably won’t. While the film is aesthetically nice and is dumb fun, we have to remember that there’s a reason the film is “dumb” fun. The plot doesn’t really do much justice to the wonderful choreography and action staging the film has going for it. The script is insanely cheesy, utilizing insanely elementary exposition in lieu of true plot development, and the plot is so convoluted that by the end of the film you hardly even care what’s happening at that point, as long as bad guys die, right? The screenplay is penned by Skip Woods, who was the screenwriter on the original “Hitman” film, and perhaps I’m wrong, but when rebooting a franchise, I would assume you wouldn’t use the same person who wrote a film so bad, you had to reboot it, right?
Another downfall of the film, surprisingly, is Zachary Quinto. Quinto is usually a very strong actor, but he’s usually in protagonist roles or anti-hero roles, and this role, as John Smith (a name as dull as his character), the primary antagonist of the film, falls flat. Quinto is simply too likable to really pull off an antagonist role nicely; despite the initially sinister look about him, he simply doesn’t have all of the chops to play a truly convincing villain, and that’s sad for me.
Yes, sometimes the settings in the film outshine the characters in the scenes, and first time director Aleksander Bach (strike #2) sometimes doesn’t know how to balance the two in the quieter scenes. Luckily, knowing his own weakness, I suppose, tries to fill each scene with enough action to pull through his strengths in the louder, more chaotic scenes. Still, I’m sure this film would’ve been better handled in the hands of someone with experience, like, any experience at all. Check out his IMDb page. Bach has literally worked on nothing else ever, and he’s being handed a franchise by a major studio. Something here doesn’t add up.
Is “Hitman: Agent 47” better than its 2007 predecessor? Yes. Is “Hitman: Agent 47” a good film? No. Yet, if you catch onto that fact early on in the film, as I did, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had in this film from its expertly staged action sequences and nice chemistry from Friend and Ware. The screenplay is a mess, the direction is occasionally inconsistent and the antagonist is laughably unbelievable in some scenes, but perhaps that’s what makes “Hitman: Agent 47” such fun. Unless, like many people, “dumb fun” signifies a cop-out of a film to you, which this could be labeled as, than stay away.
Directed by: Aleksander Bach
Starring: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Ciarán Hinds, Thomas Kretschmann, Angelababy.
Runtime: 96 minutes
Rating: R for sequences of strong violence, and some language.
Twentieth Century Fox presents, a Daybreak/Adrian Askarieh/Giant Pictures production, “Hitman: Agent 47”