Agent 47 (Olyphant) is the world’s best hitman. But after his biggest hit yet, he’s surprised to find that his own agency wants him dead, while a dogged Interpol agent (Scott) wants him in jail. Teaming up with a Russian hooker (Kurylenko), 47 hits back the only way he knows how: violently.
Three Resident Evils. Two Tomb Raiders. A Silent Hill and a Doom. And we’re not even counting Super Mario Bros. All that time and expense, and yet we’ve never been remotely close to a decent videogame movie. And guess what? Hitman continues that inglorious streak.
It’s a missed opportunity – it’s not as if the basic premise (cloned, genetically engineered hitman turns on his employers) lacks promise. But, from the off, this is an exercise in banality and incompetence, with an opening voiceover telling us of an organisation so secret that nobody knows it exists. Which begs the question: who hires them, then?
Instead of focusing on 47’s (Timothy Olyphant) intriguing background (the cloning isn’t mentioned, and he seems to be conditioned rather than engineered), we get a by-the-numbers conspiracy thriller, in which the chrome-domed killer tries to find out who set him up while a glowering Interpol agent (Dougray Scott, spitting out bad dialogue with a distasteful expression) struggles to hunt down a bald guy who makes little attempt, even in public, to conceal the distinctive barcode tattoo on the back of his head.
There are attempts to evoke the spirit of ‘80s actioners: there’s swearing aplenty, buckets of blood and even a bit of sleaze as 47 – in the grand tradition of movie hitmen – is taken under the wing of a free-spirited nude model type. Problem being, 47’s love interest is a feminist-baiting whore (Olya Kurylenko) who seems to get off on being threatened at gunpoint and locked in a car boot, while constantly reminding everyone that she’s not wearing any panties.
But the excess feels calculated and colourless, and first-time helmer Gens’ action beats are laughable (an illogical Mexican stand-off becomes a poorly choreographed four-way swordfight) retreads of scenes from other movies – twin-gunned Woo here, shaky Bourne-cam there, a dash of The Matrix for good measure. Worse, none of them possess an ounce of that most basic of hitmen movie requirements: cool.
A lot of people are wasted in Hitman, and none more so than Olyphant, in his first lead role proper. With his usual blend of roguish charisma missing, presumably shaved off along with his hair, Olyphant struggles manfully to inject humour into the taciturn 47, but ultimately the hitman remains an unsympathetic drone with even less personality than his pixellated counterpart.
Incoherent and utterly lacking in panache, style or originality, Hitman is missing an ‘s’.