August 12th, 2008

HITMAN (2007) **

I’ve never played the video game that this movie is based on (probably due to the fact that I still live in an 8 Bit world), but for some reason I always pictured Jason Statham as the cold-blooded assassin Agent 47.  Instead, we get Timothy Olyphant, who would’ve been about my 76th choice for the role.  In Live Free or Die Hard, Olyphant was a poor substitute for Alan Rickman.  In Hitman, he’s even a poor substitute for a CGI video game character. 


Agent 47 was plucked out of an orphanage when he was only five years old and trained to kill people by the mysterious “Organization”, a group of assassins would churn out killers so frequently that they have to slap a bar code on the back of their heads just to keep track of ‘em.  Anyway, the Organization gives 47 his latest assignment:  assassinate the president of Russia.  Naturally, it’s a double cross, and when 47 realizes he’s been set up he goes after the Organization with guns-a-blazing.    


You know when you play a video game and a whole mess of plot comes up and all you have to do to skip over it is press the A button?  I wish I could’ve done that with this movie.  It’s not that there’s too much plot in this movie (no such thing in a movie based on a video game), it’s just that the plot is nothing you already haven’t seen before, so you might as well skip all of the chit-chat and get to the action.  (Even baldies with bar codes have been done before.  Remember Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys?)


The subplot where Dougray (the guy who was SUPPOSED to be Wolverine) Scott tracks down 47 all over God’s drab earth (I would say green, but there ain’t nothing green in Russia) really slows things down and Olyphant’s tryst with a Russkie prostitute (Olga Kurylenko, soon to be seen in Quantum of Solace) doesn’t add much to the flick.  (Luckily for us, that Communist cooze DOES get totally naked several times and in one scene, takes the brunt end of a riding crop on her bare buns.)


The director, Xavier Gens obviously spent a lot of his time on the couch watching John Woo movies and there’s all the usual slow-mo flashiness, Mexican stand-offs, and muddled machismo you’d expect from a second-rate Woo wannabe action flick.  Really though, the film actually works better when it eschews the over-the-top gunplay in favor of nittier grittier kills.  The standout set piece is a four-way swordfight on a train that is some of the best swordfighting on a train I’ve seen since the immortal Christopher Lambert samurai vs. ninja flick, The Hunted.  Besides that tight little bit of business, we also get some juicy arm chopping, bloody exploding heads, ear ripping and awesome arterial spray, and there’s a pretty great massacre in an elevator scene tossed in there for good measure too.


I was really on the fence during most of Hitman.  While I could’ve done without all the “Who set me up?” shenanigans, I enjoyed the action scenes for the most part (especially the close-quarters stuff).  The thing that knocked the flick off of the wrong side of the fence was Olyphant’s bland as Hell performance.  I know he’s supposed to be an emotionless hitman bred since the age of five to KILL, KILL, KILL, but that doesn’t mean the dude couldn’t emote SOMETHING somehow.  Olyphant goes for that smoldering look that says, “I’m pained and complicated”, but the looks he gives are more like he’s saying “I’m pained and constipated.”  Had someone with more charisma like Statham or Vin Diesel (who was once attached to star in the film for long enough to score an executive producer credit) been in the lead, Hitman could’ve been worth a shot.  With Olyphant behind the trigger, it’s a misfire.