Movie Review: “Hitman Agent 47” Is Another Video Game Adaptation Gone Wrong

Photos: Reiner Bajo – TM and © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Oh, the video game adaptation. What a tough nut for Hollywood to crack. From “Mortal Combat” to “Need For Speed,” the labyrinth of lackluster console crossovers is constantly growing. For those that haven’t put the pieces together yet, the “Hitman” series got its start as a video game franchise as well. “Hitman Agent 47”— hitting theaters this Friday — acknowledges its keyboard and joystick roots by paying homage to the very first game in the series “Hitman: Codename 47.” Unfortunately, that is where the similarities between the massively popular action video game and its asinine cinematic spinoff end. Hollywood’s version definitely does not live up to its source material.

Directed by newcomer Aleksander Bach and starring “Homeland’s” Rupert Friend, “Hitman: Agent 47” revolves around an elite, genetically modified assassin who has been specifically created to do one thing: kill. Completely disregarding that another “Hitman” movie came out in 2007, Bach’s version reintroduces audiences to a new Agent 47 — replacing original star, the always unemotional, Timothy Olyphant with the equally emotionless Rupert Friend.

After completely dismantling a tower full of baddies, the audience is filled in on 47’s latest target… a massive tech enterprise that plans to produce genetically modified soldiers, just like Agent 47, and use them to take over the world(?). I don’t know. The convoluted story never finds time to explain why said evil corp. is hell-bent on creating barcoded super soldiers. We do find out, however, that one such evil super-soldier is played by "Star Trek" and "Heroes" alum Zachary Quinto.

Confusing villains aside, Agent 47’s task of taking down 'The Syndicate' becomes a bit more complicated after befriending the daughter of a genius scientist — played by Hannah Ware ("Oldboy"). As is often the case in movies like this, both man and woman must work together if there is any hope in destroying the bad guys.

On paper, “Hitman Agent 47” is the quintessential action flick. It has plenty of explosions, car chases, a hot female co-star and even a couple of witty one-liners thrown in for kicks. But that’s also the film’s biggest problem. It’s too paint-by-numbers in its storytelling.

Making matters worse, fledgling director Aleksander Bach is too inexperienced to take the source material — written by Skip Woods ("Swordfish") and Michael Finch ("Predators") — and give it any cinematic flourishes. Instead of bringing anything original to the project, Bach settles for a lot of camera techniques and editing styles that we see all the time in B-grade flicks of the same ilk.  

But the most damning element of the film could quite possibly be the sheer notion of trying, yet again, to create a movie out of a video game franchise that features a protagonist whose sole mission in life is to kill as emotionlessly as possible. In the games, just like in the movie, Agent 47 is a cold-blooded killer in its purest form. He was born and raised on death and destruction. I mean this quite literally. The guy’s most discernable characteristic isn’t something internal, but rather the large barcode tattooed to the back of his head!

These unsavory traits do not result in a satisfying character to watch on screen. No matter how good Rubert Friend is, and he isn’t particularly good to begin with, it is impossible to make a character designed for the world of video games work in the world of motion pictures.

As far as any sort of attempt at bringing romance or friendship into the mix, let’s just say the most intimate Friend and Ware get with one another is redressing each other’s gun shot wounds after a long day of fighting.

Just because video games are oftentimes played on the same screens that we watch our movies on, does not mean that there is a natural connection between the two. What makes an enjoyable video game does not necessarily mean it will translate to an awesome movie. “Hitman Agent 47” looks poised to find this out the hard way when it is released this weekend. Just like Agent 47 is stamped with a barcode, the latest movie based on the character feels just as factory made.

By David Morris

Rated R

Running time: 1h 48m

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