Friday, August 28, 2015

Hitman (2007) review

    Having reviewed Hitman: Agent 47 very positively here, I decided to check out the original movie starring Timothy Olyphant. I was a big fan of Justified and while I think he's a peculiar choice for the role of 47, I knew he had the acting chops to pull off a complicated role. On the other hand, Hollywood has a very mixed record with video game movies due to their inability to capture the sense of over-the-top silliness with epic drama that most popular franchises run on.

    So, what is Hitman like? Eh, it's a decent movie but it feels less like a Hitman movie and more like a movie about a hitman. This is a film which feels strongly like it was the script for another movie which was re-tooled and 47 added to replace the lead. This isn't a deal-breaker as the Hitman franchise is grounded enough that this isn't as noticeable as it might be in, say, Super Mario Brothers.

The troops from Jin-Roh shows up at one point. I kid you not.
    The story begins with 47 (Timothy Olyphant) being hired to kill the President of Russia. After successfully completing his mission, he discovers that his target has seemingly returned from the dead. Worse, the Agency (called "The Organization" here) has taken a contract on their best agent's life.

    Running from the FSB (formerly known as the KGB), Interpol, and the Organization, 47 seeks out the other target of the manhunt in a young woman named Nika (Olga Kurylenko). Nika is the mistress and sex slave of the late President who is one of the few people who would know the secret of the seemingly-resurrected President. Bonding with her almost against his will, 47 decides the only way to deal with his situation is to take the fight to his hunters.

    Plot-wise, there's precious little to complain about as everything more or less makes sense. The movie's biggest flaw is it only takes a little thinking to realize, while it all hangs together, it's also thoroughly unnecessary. 47 is being targeted by the villains because he "knows too much" and might reveal the truth to the public. Yet, 47 has killed over a hundred people for various governments and the Agency has a reputation for thorough discretion. There's no reason to kill 47 to cover up loose ends, which, of course, unravels their complicated plot. The same can be said of Nika as there's no way a the late Russian President's abused prisoner is going to be a reliable source of information.

He has two guns, his enemies have eight. They don't shoot.
    Olyphant's 47 is very close to the character in the games with his asexuality, professionalism, and deadly efficiency. The 47 in this movie is highly intelligent and defeats the majority of his opponents not by being more badass, though he is, but because he's smarter than them.

    Unfortunately, Olyphant's 47 is a little too brutal. It's not that he's not a professional killer and utterly ruthless but the bullying, threats to families, and overt cruelty seems unlike the character from the games. 47 is a murderer-for-hire but not someone I consider to be a sadistic in his actions. Rather, he's more like a living machine.

    Olga Kurylenko's Nika is a tragic character and one I would have bought 47 bonding with if he'd been a little softer. I did, however, buy the character bonding with him. Having been tortured and abused for years, she's psychologically dependent on people. 47 being the first person not to sexually abuse or torture her, despite how close he comes, is enough for her to swiftly fall in love with him despite 47 having no interest in such things. I like the fact 47 is confused why he doesn't kill her as he doesn't have enough experience with emotions to understand he's feeling sympathy for her plight.

Olga Kurylenko is gorgeous in the movie. No surprise there.
    This is one of the rare occasions when nudity is actually important to the story and, for this reason, I recommend viewers pick up the Unrated version of the film versus the theatrical cut. Olga's nude scenes as Nika help establish her vulnerability under the dead President's power as well as her returning sexual desire as she starts to fall for 47. The fact some still-human part of 47 desires Nika even as it's been brutally suppressed is handled well in this film and isn't as strong without the parts where she's undressed. Surprising but true.

    The action in the movie is pretty good but nothing exceptional. The best parts aren't when 47 is shooting things but when we get to see his Jason Bourne-like ability to think his way out of situations. 47 hides guns in an ice machine, for example, so he has access to them if he's forced out of his room. Likewise, he comes up with a number of complicated plans to force his enemies out of hiding like delivering their brother to them for a bounty or killing a (criminal) family member so they're forced to attend the funeral. These are very true to the games and some of the best parts of the movie.

There's a sword-fight for no reason at one point.
    The supporting cast is nothing exceptional but I think Olyphant and Kurylenko are capable of handling the movie on their own. Really, I would have eliminated the Interpol agent from the story as he contributes very little despite his large role and given more room for Kurylenko's character to shine. While 47 and Nika's relationship isn't sexual, despite how much she wants it to be, it's an interesting relationship and I would have liked to have seen more of it.

    In conclusion, there's nothing wrong with Hitman but I can't help but think it's above-average rather than great. The film would have been far stronger if there had been more focus on Nika and 47 rather than the politics involving Russia's president. I also think killing the "real" President who kept Nika as a slave was a mistake since it would have made the confrontation between him and 47 all the more interesting. Here, fundamentally, is the same sort of man who enslaved 47 and treats people as objects. Instead, he's just the guy who sent some assassins after 47 and Nika, which is a far less interesting motivation. While this is a more technically proficient film with a stronger story, I tend to think Hitman: Agent 47 is the more enjoyable of the two films.


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