Hitman: Agent 47 spends copious time addressing people’s ability to change who they are, but there’s little difference in quality between this adaptation of IO Interactive’s video game series and its 2007 Timothy Olyphant-headlined predecessor. Proving yet again that its source material is a thin premise upon which to base some derivative action, Aleksander Bach’s new film opens with an absolute barrage of exposition complemented by hordes of satellite-filtered computer graphics. It thereby kicks things off in the most confusing fashion possible, and sets the stage for a saga that makes little sense until at least midway through its story—at which point it resorts to merely copying numerous genre predecessors with embarrassing shamelessness.
As explicated through a stream of convoluted introductory narration, Hitman: Agent 47 concerns the search for Dr. Litvenko (Ciarán Hinds), a genius who created a race of genetically modified super soldiers known as Agents whose lethal skills are enhanced by their surgically removed capacity for pain, fear or love. Why such covert assassins are completely bald, have bar codes tattooed into the backs of their necks, and dress in designer black suits with red ties—thus making them wholly conspicuous in a crowd—is puzzling (albeit faithful to the video games). Yet that’s a rather minor problem when compared to the film’s script. After the initial info dump about Litvenko’s disappearance and various agencies’ hunt for him—some seeking to end the Agent program forever, others intent on using Litvenko to restart it for nefarious purposes—it jumps headlong into even murkier nonsense.
Most of that concerns robotic killer Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) and his mission to track down Katia (Hannah Ware), a woman who apparently holds the key to finding Litvenko. Katia is, at this point, searching Europe for Litvenko, although she doesn’t know exactly who she’s searching for, because her brain is scrambled in mysterious ways that are as baffling to her as to us. Katia also sees brief flashes of the future, a superpower that comes in handy when Agent 47 and another man pursuing her, suave John Smith (Zachary Quinto), both catch up with her. Making heads or tails of exactly what’s going on during this sequel’s early-going, however, is almost as difficult as it is unnecessary; Bach edits his material with such rapid-fire spasticity that the proceedings simply speed along in a blur of bullets and macho posturing, with little care for actual storytelling or dialogue that isn’t laugh-out-loud functional.
Hitman: Agent 47 assumes that providing enough familiar visual and plot signifiers will keep audiences entertained, or at least passably engaged. Consequently, its tale often feels like some sort of new-world reimagining of The Terminator, with Agent 47 as the mecha-killer and Katia as the Linda Hamilton-esque badass who must struggle to understand her circumstances (laughable hint: her full name, Katia van Dees, is “90” in French) while teaching her preprogrammed compatriot to be less of an inhuman monster and more of a kindler, gentler killing machine. If those allusions make the film feel like a thinly veiled rehash, so too does its endless aping of director John Woo’s signature style. Friend’s bland chrome-dome antihero dispatches hordes of enemies by twirling about while firing two steely pistols at once like some sort of third-rate Chow Yun-fat circa The Killer and Hard Boiled.
Revelations about Agent 47 and Katia’s pasts soon begin to pile up almost as fast as the dead bodies in their wake. It’s all a lot of faux-chic mayhem in service of nothing, unless one is apt to take its characters’ talk about personal agency—and man’s ability to remake himself in whatever way he wants—the least bit seriously. That’s a difficult task, though, given that the script’s nature-vs.-nurture blather is merely an obvious way to justify turning the amoral Agent 47 into a good guy, which occurs via some third-act heroics involving his eventual quest to kill a man, Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann), who wants to jump-start the Agent program. Le Clerq is intent on creating an army of super-killers because, well, he’s a bad guy, and that’s what bad guys do—just as Hitman: Agent 47, which also comes around to mimicking the Resident Evil franchise, clumsily apes from better movies because it’s a lousy one, and that’s what lousy ones do.
Director: Aleksander Bach
Writer: Michael Finch, Skip Woods
Starring: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware, Zachary Quinto, Ciarán Hinds, Thomas Kretschmann
Release Date: August 21, 2015