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Video Game-Inspired Hitman Proves Inferior

  • Christian Hamaker Contributing Writer
  • Updated Mar 13, 2008
Video Game-Inspired <i>Hitman</i> Proves Inferior

DVD Release Date:  March 11, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  November 21, 2007
Rating:  R (for strong bloody violence, language, and some sexuality/nudity)
Genre:  Action
Run Time:  100 min.
Director:  Xavier Gens
Actors:  Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Michael Offei

Oh, what the success of the Bourne trilogy has wrought!

Hitman, based on a video game but employing a similar story and style as the Bourne films, is in every way inferior to those films, not to mention pretty much every other film currently playing in theaters.

Directed with energy, but little purpose, by Xavier Gens, Hitman mimics John Woo’s hyper-stylized violence (see The Killer or Hard Boiled), but without any of the grace and purpose of Woo’s often poetic picturing of masculinity, vulnerability, and Christian faith.

Timothy Olyphant stars as the title character, part of a breed of castoff children who are raised to be ruthless killers. He has no name, only a number: 47. The shaved head and imprinted barcode on the back of his noggin are dead giveaways to his purpose, but this never becomes an issue. 

The story, filled with Eastern European settings and accents, has something to do with the Russian president, whom Agent 47 is assigned to assassinate. When his deed is witnessed, his bosses tell him to find the supposed witness and kill her, but while attempting to carry out the killing, Agent 47 finds himself on the receiving end of an assassination attempt. Has his employer set him up? Will the woman he was targeting develop a crush on Agent 47? Will the incident lead to a turf-war clash between secret agencies? Is the CIA involved?

Those questions are crucial to the skimpy plot, but viewers can be forgiven if other, more pressing questions occur to them, such as:

  • Why can’t Timothy Olyphant recite his lines in any manner other than wooden?
  • Do the filmmakers think the pulsing soundtrack and jumpy editing cover over the shopworn story? And
  • Among the many failed films based on videogames—think of the Resident Evil series, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy, and Pokemon—how is it even imaginable that Hitman might be the worst of the bunch?

The best that can be said for Hitman is that some of the action scenes are well directed, but the filmmakers appear to have poured their energy into those few sequences, leaving little in the way of plot, character development, or any display of genuine emotion. Hitman is nothing more than cardboard characters mouthing clichés, with scenes of torture and violence in between. Designed to be exciting and fun, these scenes are, instead, revolting.

It’s possible that Olyphant can recover from this catastrophe and still have a decent career. After all, the early action-film entries from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Segal aren’t known for their eloquent dialogue and stellar acting. But those stars had charisma, even when their scripts let them down. Olyphant, on the other hand, appears to have all the appeal of drywall—sturdy but bland, and best when not drawing attention to himself.

That’s not a recipe for action-star success, and Hitman is no way to kick off your Thanksgiving holiday. Better to give thanks to the Almighty by staying home and watching something worthwhile.

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  • Language/Profanity:  Lots of profanity, especially the “f” word; a woman extends her middle finger at a man who asks her, “How much?”
  • Drugs/Alcohol:  Scenes of drinking.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Topless females; a woman wears skimpy panties; a prostitute seduces a man who doesn’t respond; we see a man, from the waist up but nothing more, through steamed-up shower doors; a woman says she’s “not a whore by choice”; a transvestite is shown at a restaurant/bar.
  • Violence:  The movie is built on violence, including several scenes of gleaming firearms, multiple shootings, guns pointed at heads and against faces, blood-spurting and splattering on bystanders, wielding of machetes, victims bound in chains and tortured, wounded victims are mercilessly shot dead; explosions and destruction of property; swordfight; brawling and breaking of limbs; a woman is forced into the trunk of a car; a man is injected in his neck; a man is threatened with a method of death that will make his skin fall off.
  • Religion:  A cross icon with a Scripture verse figures in the plot.