The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

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They've Given You a Number

20th Century Fox
 96 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: Alexsander Bach 
Starring: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto
Hitman: Agent 47

There may have been 47 people in the entire world clamoring for a new movie version of the Hitman video game frachise. After all, in 2007, not even the remarkably charismatic Timothy Olyphant could elevate the material above mediocrity. But, nevertheless, here we are in 2015, and this time, the film version is named Hitman: Agent 47, and it stars the considerably less charismatic Rupert Friend. Not surprisingly, the results are even more mediocre.


Apparently, the idea of having specially trained (since childhood) assassins with bar codes tattooed on the back of their shaved heads wasn’t good enough for the producers, so they decided to make their hero even more powerful. Now, Agent 47 is a genetically engineered, specially trained assassin who has remarkable strength, agility, marksmanship, and the ability to do all his stunts in slow motion. He’s also supposed to be emotionless, sort of a sleeker version of the Terminator without Arnold Schwarzenegger’s limited charisma.


As we learn via voiceovers in the first few minutes of the movie, Agent 47 and his fellow numbers were engineered by Dr. Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), who later decided test tube super killers were not the best way to win a Nobel Prize, so he went into hiding. Now, another group called the Syndicate (apparently not the same Syndicate that got in Tom Cruise’s way in the last Mission Impossible movie) wants to start the Hitman program back up again, but they need Dr. Litvenko’s expertise to make it work. So, they spend much of the movie chasing after Litvenko, as does his daughter Katia (Hannah Ware), who has deep seeded daddy issues. Meanwhile, chasing after Katia is Agent 47, to fulfill his latest contract.


Since Agent 47 always fulfills his contracts, as he says on several occasions in the movie, Katia would seemingly be a goner but for two things. First, a mysterious stranger with the imaginative name of John Smith (Zachary Quinto) shows up to act as her protector. And second, as the movie’s trailers have so kindly spoiled, she’s got pretty much the same genes as all the hitmen do and, once she channels her inner hitwomanitude, she can do pretty much the same bunch of nifty things in slow motion that Agent 47 does.


Hitman: Agent 47 has a nearly incomprehensible plot that seems designed to serve two purposes: giving the Agent lots and lots of stunt men to dispose of, and giving first-time director Aleksander Bach plenty of stunning locales from Salzburg, Austria, to Berlin to Singapore to shoot. And I have to say that Bach takes advantage of those locales by staging scenes in some amazing architectural settings, most notably a giant Singapore greenhouse that has a raised catwalk allowing the characters to walk among the treetops. Other locations, such as the office building that serves as the headquarters for some of the villains, are equally stunning.


When the most memorable aspect of an action film is the location architecture, that’s a sure sign the movie is in trouble, and Hitman: Agent 47 stays in trouble from the needlessly verbose introductory voiceover to a mid-closing credits sequence that raises the scary prospect of a sequel. Friend is supposed to be playing a robotic character, but that doesn’t excuse the rest of the cast, who mumble their way through their roles. The sole exception is Quinto, who seems well aware of the cartoonish nature of the movie and his character and is determined to have a lot of fun in the role


Fortunately, the storyline of Agent 47 pits Quinto and Friend against each other several times during the movie and their fights are well staged and seem fairly realistic. The same cannot be said for most of the rest of the action scenes in the movie. Bach tries to make the fight and chase sequences stylized, but that really means super slow motion. A good example is staging several scenes in which Agent 47 ejects the magazine from his gun and reloads in slow motion. The stunt wasn’t impressive the first time, let alone the third or fourth.


Of course, sometimes the slow motion theatrics help overcome the fact that Bach has painted his characters in such a corner that there’s no conceivably plausible way they could escape. So, he has them pull some sort of ridiculous stunt like having a temporarily captured Agent 47 kick a table to make a gun that’s pointed at him fire just so that he could have the bullet hit his handcuffs, allowing him to make his escape. Lost in all the slo mo wizardry is the fact that there was no real reason to allow himself to be captured in the first place.


Somewhere deep within Agent 47’s muddled plot is an ethical and moral statement about genetic engineering. And somewhere deep within his character, Rupert Friend displays a bit of emotion. Neither moment is very convincing, nor do they make the movie any less boring. For a movie that’s got a high quotient of often R-rated nearly non-stop action, Agent 47 is fairly boring.


Hitman: Agent 47 is yet another example that a successful video game does not a successful movie make. While video game fans may thrive on nonstop action involving faceless adversaries, most movie fans, even action fans, want some type of storyline. Agent 47 has a less coherent and intelligent story (and less well developed characters) than the video game. The location photography and the fights between Friend and Quinto are entertaining enough to keep the movie from being a total bore, but someone should really have hired Agent 48 to put out a hit on the production of Agent 47.

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Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) on IMDb