Written by: The Editor
READER’S DISCERTION ADVISED! (Spoliers Alert! – You’ve been warned)
A government agency has developed a secret program that produces “super” people, folks who can do things better than anyone else, especially fighting and killing. But something goes wrong with the program, it’s shut down, and years later, someone else starts it up again. Then things really go wrong.
If you see one movie about governmentally modified assassins this weekend, don’t make it “Hitman: Agent 47.” “American Ultra” is the far superior take on the unknowing super spy, because it takes itself far less seriously, and can actually poke fun at the genre. “Hitman: Agent 47” was just never going to be able to keep up, especially with its overly serious take on the genre. It’s so cold blooded, it’s practically reptilian.
Directed by newcomer Aleksander Bach, with a screenplay by Skip Woods and Michael Finch, the story seems overly complicated but is actually quite simple: Someone’s trying to make more of the genetically enhanced “agents,” and in order to succeed, they need to find the originator of the project, Litvenko (Ciarán Hinds), who has dropped off the face of the earth. In pursuit are Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), a contract killer so focused on his job he’s practically a robot, and John Smith (a woefully miscast Zachary Quinto) who works for the private organization Syndicate International. 47 is trying to stop Syndicate from making more agents. He works for a woman, Diana (Angelababy; that is actually her name), who gives him cryptic instructions on the phone.
Coming from a background of music videos, director Bach certainly has a decent eye for style, but with a project such as this it’s hard to truly gage what talents he may possess. Desperate to add “much needed” grit and realism to the fight scenes, Bach and co. follow many others before them revert to the tried-and-tested shaky, hand-held “right in there” motifs that have become so much the norm in modern action cinema that it all feels like the most monotonous of chores. By extension too, the copious amounts of explosions, car chases and shoot-out’s add nothing new or exciting that no other film of this ilk has done so much better.
Sadly, despite Bach’s obvious stylistic endeavours, no about of style can compensate for lack of substance and Hitman: Agent 47 is severely lacking in all departments. Bereft of any coherent story or characters, the film jumps from one dull set-piece to another without as much as a second to let its main players do anything except the aforementioned action-by-numbers.
There’s a half-baked attempt to answer some existential questions about the nature of humanity when you’re a murderous robot person, but the sentimentality doesn’t mesh with the film’s desire for cathartic, cinematic violence. Unfortunately, the action that we do get is chaotic and incomprehensible, largely bloodless, and without any sense of tension. There are times when it feels profoundly like a first-person shooter video game, which makes sense because it’s based on one.
Rupert Friend, so impressive in Homeland, is miscast here as the titular anti-hero, despite his best efforts. The biggest problem with a protagonist that shows almost no emotions? We feel nothing towards him or his journey, and by extension nothing he does on-screen, good or bad, ever illuminates our interest. The same can be said for Zachary Quinto; throwing himself into a role that’s more akin to Sylar than Spock, not even he can save this one
Agent 47’s motivations aren’t clear because he’s barely a human, despite Katia’s protestations otherwise. He’s just doing his job, and ultimately the film is about work — what it means to work a job that strips one’s humanity in the service of a contract, and what it means when your life’s work results in those agents. It’s hard to fully blame messers Bach, Friend and Quinto, but even they must have seen what was coming – one of the year’s very worst.