‘Hitman: Agent 47’ Review: The Hitman’s Name Is Agent 47, So Technically the Title of This Movie is ‘Hitman: Hitman’
Agent 47 is a perfect assassin, built to kill with ruthless efficiency and accuracy. Mad scientists tweaked his genetics to enhance his toughness and diminish his emotions, because emotions make people weak. In his line of work — murdering people, all day every day — it is better not to feel.
It’s cool to be Agent 47, with his crisp suit and polished pistols and deadened soul, which is why he’s been the subject of more than half a dozen Hitman video games over the last 15 years. But it’s not cool to watch Agent 47 in a movie, because the very thing that makes him a fun video game character — his detached demeanor, his singular focus — makes him a terrible movie character. He never misses and never moves at a pace faster than a leisurely saunter. He has no apparent goals or motivation, and no opinion about his violent activities because he was specifically designed not to have goals or motivations or opinions; just targets and objectives. His only discernible emotion is his deep love for posh luxury hotels. Rooting for the title character of Hitman: Agent 47 is like watching a baseball movie and rooting for the pitching machine.
After a lengthy opening voiceover provides the CliffsNotes version of the Hitman mythos, in which a corporation with the in-no-way evil name of Syndicate International has engineered super-soldiers known as “agents,” the 47th film in the long-running Hitman: Agent franchise picks up its story in Berlin, where a woman named Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware) searches for her father, the doctor who created Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) and holds the key to engineering more augmented killers. The Syndicate wants her dad too, so they send their minions to find her. Soon, Katia’s trapped in between 47 and another man named John Smith (Zachary Quinto), who vows to protect her.
It’s basically The Terminator, if the plot was a baffling mess, none of the human characters were even remotely interesting, the heroes and villains switched allegiances constantly for no reason, and the entire script sounded like it was cut and pasted from a list of the most clichéd lines of dialogue in Hollywood history. (Sample: “I thought you could only be a legend after you were dead.” “Oh but you are! You just don’t know it yet!”) The fight sequences and shootouts, overseen by John Wick filmmakers Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, are certainly competent, but they’re also painfully repetitive; there’s only so many mild thrills one can wring from the sight of Friend passively slaughtering generic goons. Quinto at least looks like he’s having a little fun, sneering and fighting and screaming “Seal the building!” on numerous occasions (and his hair is, no joke, the one truly unimpeachable part of the film), but even he can’t get a rise out of his placid opponent.
Though a few moments are laugh-out-loud silly (like bad guy Thomas Kretschmann’s office, which appears to be made entirely out of touchscreen, and the scene where Katia escapes a death trap using the power of slo-mo gymnastics) Hitman: Agent 47 is mostly too technically adequate to be entertainingly bad. Mostly it’s just bad-bad; endless whispered dialogue scenes in laboratories or hotel suites that amount to absolutely nothing, a storyline that makes no sense, and monotonous shootouts where the heroes never miss and the NPCs never hit their targets. As played by Friend, taking over the Agent 47 role from Timothy Olyphant, the title character has zero personality. Neither does the movie.
There continues to be much debate over the relative artistic merits of video games; whether interactivity impacts (or altogether eliminates) the role of authorship and intent, whether a medium still in its infancy can already lay claim to such a lofty title. Most open-minded folks agree, though, that at their best, video games are indeed art. Hitman: Agent 47, however, is not. It is junk, plain and simple.