Movie Review ‘Hitman: Agent 47’

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HITMAN: AGENT 47 is not a new movie, but in the context of one of the last releases of 2016, now seems like a good time to take a look back at it. Last month we saw the release of Assassin’s Creed, a film based on the popular Ubisoft series starring Michael Fassbender in the lead role. Viewed by many as a project that could reverse the trend of underwhelming game-to-film adaptations, Assassin’s Creed flopped with critics and was relatively disappointing at the box office. That’s not to say it was an outright failure. Fassbender is always enjoyable and the first quarter or so of the film was intriguing. In the end it fell prey to the same old lack of substance and confusing action that has doomed video game adaptations in the past.

It seems fair to ask if Hitman: Agent 47 was any better. The circumstances surrounding the movie’s release were similar to those with regard to Assassin’s Creed. Hitman wasn’t just a recognizable name in gaming, but a franchise that was in the midst of significant expansion across multiple platforms.

Following the 2012 release of Hitman: Absolution, Square Enix and IO Interactive took steps to further branch out with the series. This began with internet casino gaming platforms, where it’s not uncommon to see existing characters used as subjects for slot reels and jackpot games. The Hitman slot reel involved recreates some of the most memorable features of the series, including a bonus game where players could choose a target to eliminate before obtaining that target’s hidden value. It’s more creative than you’d expect and signaled the decision by the publisher to expand the reach of the franchise.

That decision to branch out also led to multiple mobile games including Hitman Go and Hitman Sniper. The former is a turn-based puzzle game where you control an agent moving along various grids toward targets, and the latter is a point-and-click sniping game that stands out in a crowded genre of mobile shooter..

With all this going on and interest in the character at an all-time high they decided to follow up with a second Hitman movie. Unfortunately, Hitman: Agent 47 wound up being a mess and is considered one of the worst video game films not directed by Uwe Boll.

The movie tells the story of 47 (Rupert Friend), a specially trained and genetically altered assassin working for an international contract killing agency. Wishing to meet the man who helped create him, 47 begins a search for Katia (Hannah Ware), the same man’s daughter, who holds the clues to his whereabouts. Along the way a group called Syndicate International and their agent John Smith (Zachary Quinto) get in the way, attempting to stop 47 and find his creator for themselves. As the film progresses we learn that Katia too has the power to unlock assassin abilities, and she and 47 wind up on a frantic quest first to find, and then to rescue her father.

The movie does decent job of capturing the sleek aesthetic of the games and the action scenes are done well but aren’t enough to comprise a good film. The plot is bland, the characters are soulless, and the action, even if it’s not bad, is somewhat suffocating.

The only surprise is that no one involved saw that problem coming. Replicating video game action in an action movie doesn’t seem particularly difficult, but giving a video game character a compelling persona and an interesting mission is a different challenge. If you love the series, it’s still worth checking out, but if you’re just looking for some action-packed escapism, you’d be better off looking elsewhere.

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