I had a dentist appointment today, and afterwards headed on home to work out the rest of my day on the couch. While I was working diligently on some projects (no, this movie review site is not my day job), I might have, perhaps, inserted the Hitman DVD to have on in the background. The movie, based on a video game one can only assume is at least semi-popular to some degree or another, is about a ruthless assassin who decides to rescue a woman he was assigned to kill - and finds himself in a frame-up.
Hitman follows the exact same plot that most other assassin movies prescribe to, but the lead character, Agent 47, is one of those assassins that is pretty much unstoppable. I'm pretty sure that during the course of the movie, Timothy Olyphant, who plays Agent 47, doesn't break a sweat, never loses an ounce of blood nor has to reload a single time. He can be punched in the face repeatedly and the makeup crew doesn't have to do a thing, and he can get the hottest women around but often opts not to. James Bond he is not.
The thing that stands out about Hitman is its visual style. I won't say that Xavier Gens' direction is anything to scream about, but the movie's crisp, to-the-point and visually pleasing look works well and enhances the violence, of which there is a fair amount. The rest of the movie isn't great, but the film looks good while stewing in mediocrity, and that's got to count for something.
Unfortunately, Hitman isn't the explosive film it so could have easily been. It doesn't need to be smart a la The Bourne Supremacy or suave like James Bond, but it does have to have pretty much non-stop, excessive violence. While there is plenty of action, Gens never blew me away with any kind of memorable sequence. There are a few decent action scenes, but none really catch the attention or inspire a rewatch. It's my belief that every action movie like this should thrive to offer at least one long, intense and complex action sequence that at least tries to top its predecessor, yet Gens seems content with not doing that.
Beyond the action, what hurts the movie further is its clunky editing and storytelling. Visually, Hitman is good, but the whole first act seems cut and trimmed to the point where it's almost incoherent. The assassination scenes in the beginning of the movie lack any kind of intensity, setup or foreshadowing, which is an odd approach for a film that could and should have started off with a bang. There are other scenes that come and go without much explanation or development, making me wonder if a longer movie might offer a more satisfying ride.
Olyphant, in the lead, is decent. I've liked the guy ever since his intense performance in The Girl Next Door, and while I can't speak to how he works in comparison to the video game, he makes for a decent assassin. Still, Olyphant doesn't hold down a consistent character; from the bar scene at the beginning you get the sense that Agent 47 is meant to be detached from regular human life, but sometimes the way he acts and talks doesn't match that persona. On the flip side, when he begins to warm up to Olga Kurylenko (who gets naked in most scenes she's in except for the nearly nonexistent sex scene between the two leads), neither he nor the screenplay take advantage of his awkwardness to squeak a few laughs out for the audience. Olyphant seems to adjust his character to what works best per scene, but that works against him over the course of the film.
Hitman is, ultimately, entertaining and harmless to watch, but the movie is clunky in its delivery, a combination of awkward direction, editing, writing and acting. Those looking for mindless action will get enough to feed a hungry stomach, but not enough to truly satisfy. It is, however, better than going to the dentist.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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