ask any critic and he/she/it will tell you that the hardest ones to write about are the ones in the middle, the mediocre and passable ones. it’s a lot easier to write about something you feel passionate about, on both sides of the spectrum. so i’ll start this hitman review with a little anecdote: when i was telling some of my friends that i’ll be watching hitman for video game movie month, there wasn’t so much of a reaction from them but instead of them trying to remember whether they’ve seen it or not. the most common comment seems to be “i’ve seen it but i don’t remember anything about it.” that one line succinctly and perfectly describes hitman. no one should ever spend any time reading or writing a thousand words on hitman: the movie.
it’s kind of redundant but i’m gonna do it anyway.
hitman: the movie is based on the moderately successful video game series. the first one came out in 2000 and the sixth game will be coming out next year. i think i may have started one of the ps2 games but i don’t think i was interested enough to finish the opening training mission. you control the main character known only as 47, who tries to assassinate whoever the computer tells you to without causing much ruckus.
the movie kind of follows the games, though he is definitely less stealthy than his game counterpart. played by timothy olyphant (go, live free or die hard), he still has the white shirt, red tie, black suit, bald head, and the barcode tattoo on the back of his head.
the movie opens with the backstory that doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the movie. we learn that 47 grew up in an orphanage/hitman school where instead of video games, they give you martial arts and weapons training. oh and a free tattoo on the back of your head. i don’t know if they charge extra if you want more than one tattoo or on other parts of your body. we see two kids tried to escape the orphanage by climbing the fence, but one was shot by a sniper. that’s kind of wasteful and overreacting even for a hitman orphanage don’t you think? not only do you have to keep a sniper on payroll 24/7, you also waste perfectly good time and effort going into that one free tattoo for an orphan/future hitman that you just killed. two words: electric fence.
by the way, this whole flashback sequence is set to ave maria, which is probably the second most cliched piece of classical music you can use in an action movie after orff’s carmina burana.
47’s new mission is to assassinate the russian president, which is almost funny considering the fact that neither the games nor the movie is made in the 80s or early 90s. he finds out that he has been set up by his boss, “the organization.” i don’t know if they are related to “the outfit” from payback or point blank with lee marvin. the movie is about 47 trying to get to the bottom of this, which i hope he did, cause i sure didn’t. along the way, there’s dougray scott (mission: impossible woo) as the authority figure after 47, and olga kurylenko (max payne, quantum of solace) as a russian hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold and girl-with-the-lizard-face-tattoo. the movie is thankfully rated r, so in addition to blood and violence, olga gets naked pretty willy-nilly-ly. it’s supposed to show how machine-like 47 is.
though the dvd says unrated, this is by no means the director’s cut. it’s pretty obvious from the movie that there were plenty of reshoots and edits by the studio. imdb confirms it. supposedly directed xavier gens (frontier(s)), the film was actually recut by someone studio sanctioned “for commercial purpose.” this apparently happened on another fox movie, live free or die hard, which also stars olyphant. luckily things worked out better for die hard 4 than hitman. there are plenty of scenes and characters in hitman that were brought up and then forgot about. although, gens apparently skipped over the back story on purpose, he was saving it for hitman 2:
texas blood money.
i like olyphant as an actor in everything i’ve seen him in. he’s usually great as the charismatic but kind of creepy guy, or as they say in swingers, the guy in the r rated movie that you’re not sure you’re gonna like. though he’s not on the hans gruber level (but then again, who is?), he puts his stamp in movies like live free or die hard, go, the u.s. office, gone in sixty seconds 2000, and scream 2. hell he’s the best thing in the girl next door. these characters seems pretty accurate to what he’s like in real life, based on that episode of dinner for five.
but i think he’s miscast here as the mechanical hitman. first of all, he couldn’t quite pull off the bald look. unlike bruce, you always see that it’s an actor with a shaved head instead of a character having a bald head. secondly, the story and character demands a stiff muscle man and he’s too charming and smooth to be wooden. it’s interesting that apparently vin diesel was originally casted as 47. i never thought i would ever say this following sentence but: vin diesel would have been perfect for the role. but even with diesel dropped out (to do babylon a.d. probably), and judging from the video game images, they should have went with another bald vin, vinnie jones. or if you don’t want to stick with the bald look, stallone or seagal or dolph would have been ok too. or arnold in terminator mode.
the action scenes are more or less decent, except for one that is way too boondock saint-ish for my taste. though the plot is pretty standard direct-to-video stuff, they didn’t quite cut it like most dtv movies nowadays with flashing and zooming and a.d.d. editing. you can actually quite clearly see what’s going on and where everybody is. so that’s something.
the train sequence is the most noteworthy part of the movie. at first it seems like they were going for the john woo/reservoir dogs mexican standoff where everyone has two guns and pointing them at each other. but then they decided to drop the guns and fight with double swords instead. yes, all four of them carry two swords on their back. this happens after a chase scenes, i know it’s illogical but it’s so wtf that it’s entertaining. i also like the connection between olyphant and olga based on tattoos above the neck. and after a die hard-ish jump out the window to a lower floor apartment, we see two kids playing the hitman video game. that’s two cool references for the price of one sequence.
this scene also made me think that it might have been fun if they made a martial arts movie out of hitman. jet li has done bald before, in fact, he even starred in a movie called hitman. the swords scene eventually leads to a close quarter fight in a train track that’s reminiscent of the opening of drunken master ii. instead of the hitman orphanage training school, it could have been easily changed to a peking opera school where jackie chan and sammo hung grew up.
other than some mildly entertaining action scenes, hitman is mostly forgettable. it’ll probably be more fun if you play the game for 90 minutes instead. or watch any of these better movies that came to my head while i was watching hitman: grosse pointe blank, mission impossible 1, the professional, the fugitive, salt, the saint, the transporter movies.
if you have played any of the hitman games, feel free to send us your reviews to firstname.lastname@example.org.