By Mark Greczmiel
Back in 2007, the action-thriller, “Hitman” proved to be a surprise box office hit, earning nearly 100 million dollars worldwide. Timothy Olyphant starred as a hired assassin genetically engineered since childhood to be a perfect killer. Not surprisingly, a sequel was planned, with Paul Walker of the “Fast and Furious” franchise slated to take over the lead role. But Walker’s tragic death in 2013 forced producers to find a replacement. They picked the very capable Rupert Friend, best known for his roles on the cable series, “Homeland” and the film, “The Young Victoria” to play the lead in the just-released, “Hitman: Agent 47.”
The movie certainly delivers on the action aspect, and begins with major sequence as the unsmiling Agent 47 methodically eliminates the team surrounding one of his targets. The violence is brutal and not for the squeamish, with the film earning it’s R-rating within the first five minutes.
The plot features a powerful, shadowy organization desperately seeking a young woman who is somehow associated with the man who helped create the hit men program many years earlier. We know this group is powerful because the head guy (Thomas Kretschmann from “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) sits behind the coolest high-tech desk you’ve ever seen. The first part of this movie feels like a re-run of the first “Terminator” film with the woman (Hannah Ware of the TV drama, “Betrayal”) being relentlessly pursued by the unsmiling Hitman 47. A mysterious stranger (Zachary Quinto from “Star Trek”) shows up to help her and although he doesn’t actually say, “Come with me if you want to live,” it feels very familiar and one almost expects Arnold Schwarzenegger to pop in. Thankfully, the plot makes a major turn and for a while the story becomes much more interesting.
This is the first feature film by Polish director Aleksander Bach who is best known for music videos and TV commercials. He and his team picked some incredibly unique locations in both Berlin and Singapore which provide a spectacular backdrop for the film. Bach certainly knows how to make his shots visually interesting but although the action sequences are impressive, they do have a been-there, done-that kind-of-feeling.
Also, an action movie is much better when it also has a good story and a film based on a video game faces an uphill struggle. The script was co-written by Skip Woods who did the first “Hitman” and whose credits include ‘Swordfish” and “A Good Day to Die Hard.” The story here has a few interesting moments, particularly between Agent 47 and the pursued woman. (A welcome moment of comic relief comes when the two discuss an item that the assassin has placed inside a closet) But the plot does feel a little uneven. Rupert Friend does an adequate job as Agent 47, but for some reason his character goes from being a virtually silent killer to a chatty-cathy later on in the story. That shift is a bit jolting and never explained.
In the end, “Hitman: Agent 47” is neither horrible nor particularly memorable. In the genre of high-style action films, it a by-the-book effort that makes for a very average movie.
2 popcorn boxes out of 4