The received wisdom concerning movies based on videogames is that they’re all awful.
A quick check over on Wikipedia’s page on these films reveals that the highest rated movie in this category is Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and as anyone who saw that abomination can attest, its comparatively high score isn’t much of a recommendation.
It’s possible that the upcoming Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed movies may snap this losing streak, since the publishers who own the gaming IPs have insisted they have more of a controlling hand in producing them – and given Hollywood’s track record when it comes to these sorts of films, who can blame them?
In the meantime audiences have Hitman: Agent 47 to wince at, a film that manages to be loud, nonsensical, obnoxious and bland all at the same time. Perhaps the worst thing one could say about 20th Century Fox’s latest adaptation of IO Interactive’s videogame is that it’s pretty forgettable – more so even than the 2007 film that starred Timothy Olyphant – he of Deadwood and Justified fame – in the title role.
This time Rupert Friend (of Homeland fame) plays IO’s bald, besuited and bar-coded assassin and while he brings a certain menacing stoicism to the part, it’s not enough to elevate the film’s awful dialogue or its ridiculous plot.
The story revolves around a woman named Katia (Hannah Ware) who is searching for her father Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds), who just happens to be the mastermind behind the genetic program that created Agent 47 and his lethal cohorts.
A shady outfit called The Syndicate is desperate to get its hands on Litvenko as its tried to replicate his program and failed miserably. To that end, they send an agent called John Smith (Zachary Quinto) to hunt down the pair of them. Agent 47 is dispatched to protect Katia and stop Litvenko’s research from falling into The Syndicate’s hands.
The plot isn’t especially deep or layered and it telegraphs its twists and developments very early on. To be frank, it feels less like the film makers are concerned with telling a decent story and more like the narrative simply exists as a framework for action set pieces punctuated by the odd scene of exposition. The former sequences feel utterly perfunctory; while the gunplay and martial arts show off the athletic prowess of the stunt crew (and the actors in close-up), they have none of the style, panache or even immediacy of the action scenes in far superior B-movies – like, say Crank or the more recent John Wick.
When the action slows, the silliness of the plot starts raise a ton of questions. Why does Agent 47 spare a character in one early scene only to fill him with bullets about ten minutes later? How is The Syndicate considered a ‘secret’ organisation when it has a skyscraper in Singapore with a giant ‘S’ on the side as its main HQ? And why is The Syndicate even interested in Litvenko’s Agent Program when they’ve created their own genetically enhanced assassin in the form of John Smith, who is both stronger and faster than Agent 47 and has bulletproof skin to boot.
Quinto, incidentally, is probably the film’s one saving grace. Not only does the Heroes and Star Trek star chew through scenery like a combine harvester, but his character gets bashed, shot, stabbed and blown up so many times he starts to resemble the film’s answer to Kenny in South Park. The hang-dog expression Quinto displays whenever he’s clambering out of the wreckage of his latest catastrophe is priceless.
With that aside, Hitman: Agent 47 is neither good enough to recommend to action film buffs, nor bad enough to attract fans of car crash entertainment. In fact, it’s hard to know exactly who the film is aimed at. Fans of the Hitman franchise – presumably the film’s target audience – will note that Hitman: Agent 47 has very little in common with the stealth-based videogames it’s based on besides the titular protagonist. Mind you, a Hitman movie that remained completely faithful to the games would probably feature a lot of scenes involving Agent 47 hiding in cupboards and laundry hampers for ten minute stretches.
Hitman: Agent 47 is simply the latest in a long line of bad films based on good videogames. Here’s hoping that the upcoming movies based on Ubisoft’s and Blizzard’s games are better. Or at least, that they aren’t any worse.
Verdict: Firing blanks 25%