Out of the big video game franchises out there, few would make a more likely candidate for a (potentially) good movie franchise than "Hitman", the series that follows Agent 47, a bald, stealthy assassin. The series is remarkable in its moody style and cold, crisp elegance. The noirish games could make for quite the film in the right hands, although fans worried when rumors of production problems spread on the internet.
The movie itself doesn't turn out to be as great as one would have hoped, but it at least does have some positives. The film stars Timothy Olyphant (a much better choice than the original casting of Vin Diesel) as Agent 47, an assassin raised from birth by the shadowy agency (with government ties) called...well, The Agency. Early in the picture, he is hired to assassinate Russian presidential candidate Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen), and he thinks he does.
However, Belicoff shows up later that day, and it appears to Agent 47 that he's been set-up. Things also appear odd to the Interpol agent (Dougray Scott), who's been trying to track down 47. Soon enough, other, similarly bald agents - also with barcodes on their heads - are popping up all over the place, trying to take 47 out of the picture. A young woman, Nika (Olga Kurylenko), might be his only chance - he takes her and flees.
The story - what their is of it - doesn't make a great deal of sense (okay, lets just say the majority of it really doesn't make any sense, and the movie seems like it was ended under distress), but it is is largely an excuse to stage some over-the-top fight scenes, including an enjoyably ridiculous standoff on a train that escalates when everyone involved realizes that they also happen to have swords on them. The dialogue is similarly clunky ("What are you doing to do?" "What I do."), but it kind of goes along the with the territory.
The performances aren't terrific, but Olyphant's subdued effort is a far better choice than original star Vin Diesel, whose inclusion would have likely made this into a "XXX" sequel. As it is, "Hitman" is merely a low-end copy of films like "The Professional" (speaking of, I wonder what Luc Besson would have done with this movie.) There's also the fact that the "Bourne" films have gone over this ground in a bolder, better way recently, as well.
Still, the picture does deliver the required action sequences, although a couple of these sequences feel strangely "been there, done that." Olyphant's performance also does a decent job carrying the film along, and - obviously sensing that the picture doesn't make much sense, the filmmakers have decided to go mildly over-the-top, and add in a joke or two (in one scene, kids are seen playing the "Hitman" video game, and Olyphant's character gives a curious look at what's going on on the TV as the kids play the game.)
Overall, the picture manages to be a decent, moderately engaging action movie for a rainy day. The material should have added up to more, but it also could have easily ended up being less than how it turned out.
The film is presented in an Unrated version here, which runs 94 minutes. I did not see the film theatrically, but I'm guessing that the unrated (which, if I had to rate it, would definitely seem like a hard R) version is more graphic.
VIDEO: "Hitman" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The screening copy of the film that was provided offered above-average image quality, with fine sharpness/detail and only a few minor/mild instances of artifacting. However, this is still not the retail copy and unfortunately, I cannot make any final comments on it, as the final copy may offer differing image quality.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation (there is also a DTS 5.1 option, as well) is certainly a slam-bang sound mix, with the surrounds used aggressively for gunfire, breaking glass and reinforcement of the score. The audio is also spread well across a wide front soundstage, and I was impressed with the low-end bass during the most intense sequences. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue and clear, well-recorded effects. The DTS does offer a slightly crisper, punchier audio presentation than the Dolby Digital edition.
EXTRAS: "Digital Hits" is a look at video game franchise, running about 10 minutes. The lengthier 25-minute "In the Crosshairs" is more of an overview of the production, but some of the interviews do seem rather fluffy and promotional. "Setting the Score" (composing the score) and "Instruments of Destruction" (short looks at the weapons in the film) are also included. We also get 5 deleted scenes, although no reason is given for their deletion. We also get a gag reel and trailers.
Final Thoughts: "Hitman" remains uneven, but it does have some positives, such as Olyphant, who is a good casting choice in the role. The DVD edition offers excellent audio quality and a few minor supplements.
The Film C+