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Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47

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Certificate 15, 96 minutes

Director: Aleksander Bach

Stars: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto

Hitman: Agent 47 opens describing how, in 1967, something called the Agent Program was set up in an unnamed country (but various things suggest it may have been the Soviet Union, or at least part of the Communist Bloc) run by a Professor Litvenko (played, later in the film by Ciarán Hinds) to create the perfect killing machine, a genetically enhanced soldier. Litvenko fled the programme, disgusted by what he had created, and now he is being hunted, as many people wish to restart the program.

Hitman: Agent 47
The hunters have one clue; a picture of a young girl now identified as Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware), and have finally found her. The first scene occurs in a Syndicate laboratory in Salzburg in Austria. Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) is also hunting for Katia and Litvenko, and wants the information that has been discovered. In Berlin, Katia is contacted by John Smith (Zachary Quinto, Star Trek Into Darkness) who says he works for a company called Syndicate International, and is there to protect her from 47. When 47 finally catches up with them, however, he doesn't kill Katia; instead, he kidnaps her, and says that it is Smith who wants her dead, not him, and that she, too, is genetically enhanced.

Evidence surfaces that Litvenko is hiding out in Singapore, which is also, as it happens, the headquarters of Syndicate International, run by Antoine Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Plastic). Quite what Syndicate International does is never actually made clear in the film. They seem to be a business with no actual business, but they have been described (in some of the literature) as being a international terrorist organisation that makes assassins and competes with the International Contract Agency (although the ICA itself also doesn't seem to be mentioned). Syndicate International wants to restart the Agent Program, even though they are already making enhanced assassins of their own - Smith's ability to stand up against 47 is proof of that.
Hitman: Absolution
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This is the second attempt to bring Square Enix's Hitman video game series to the big screen, the previous being the 2007 film Hitman. The biggest problem with trying to do this is 47 himself. He really doesn't have much in the way of a personality -he's a genetically engineered killing machine lacking pretty much anything in the range of human emotions. He doesn't have much in the way of friends, or interest in others. Instead, 47 kills people for large sums of money - and that's it. He doesn't even seem to spend the money he makes; in the games, he seems quite content to live in squalor. In the book, Hitman: Damnation, it was claimed that he used the money to eat expensively and to have custom-made clothing, even though his entire wardrobe is identical: black suit, white shirt, red tie.

This attempt probably has more in common with the video games than the previous one. It sees a, fairly limited, number of appearances by Diana (Angelababy), the head of the Agency, and 47 has his custom Silverballers, as well as a fibre wire garrotte, knives and small explosive devices. 47 is back to being the product of genetic engineering, rather than one of many specially trained orphans. Of course, he may be one of many genetically engineered killers instead, but that is, at least, rather true to the series.

There is an awful lot of killing, and blood, as 47 mows down hordes of faceless redshirts - which isn't actually that true to the game series, as in that the objective became to only kill your target, and preferably in such a way that it looks like an accident, rather than cut down everything in sight - and the film has been compared to 80s-era action films where 99% of the foes exist simply to be killed by the main protagonist. There's a feeling that the film has been cut, and some rather important information removed from it; perhaps a director's cut will be made with scenes added back in. One good element is that 47's motive seems unclear for much of the film, especially when he talks to Diana. Does he really have Katia's best interests at heart or not? 47 does tell her not to trust him, and certainly feeling for others is rather out of character for the emotionless killer.

A second problem with trying to convert the games to films is the plot; the games don't actually have that much in the way of one. There are various assassinations that are tied into an ending, but the plot is really quite simple - assassinate a bunch of people without dying, which doesn't provide much of a basis for a cinematic plot. This could be got around by simply going all-out action, but the film doesn't, quite, mange that either. There are a handful of good set-pieces, where 47 goes up a whole bunch of enemies - bad guys doesn't really seem to be an appropriate term. There is also the odd element of humour, too, particularly when a heavily armed 47 goes through a metal detector, but that, and some of the action filming, does seem to have been lifted straight from The Matrix.

There is a mid-credits scene that suggests that a sequel was planned, but it seems doubtful that the film will be successful enough that one will actually be filmed. Possibly the biggest mistake of the entire film was keeping the same writer from the original, 2007, film. That one wasn't particularly well written, and it would have suggested that trying some new talent would be a good idea for a remake. On the whole, Hitman: Agent 47 is an adequate action film, but nothing more, and unfortunately isn't true enough to the game series to really please fans of that, nor is it distinct enough from it to appeal to others, falling instead into a rather noncommittal middle ground that doesn't really satisfy anyone.

Hitman: Agent 47 egdcltd 2015-08-28 3.0 0 5
3/5
Hitman: Agent 47
Amazon Price: $14.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 28, 2015)
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