Hitman Agent 47 film review: hit or miss?

Does Hitman Agent 47 buck the trend for videogame-to-movie adaptations?

Hitman Agent 47

We don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that the world wasn’t crying out for a Hitman movie reboot.

2007’s Hitman was a pretty by-the-numbers action flick that came and went without causing much of a stir – aside from being roundly panned as yet another sub-par videogame film – but it apparently did enough to warrant another, revised take on the franchise. Enter Hitman: Agent 47.

First-time director Aleksander Bach’s reboot begins rather inauspiciously, with a laboured voiceover and graphics combo that explains the origin of the film’s titular assassin at length. 47 was the product of a secret program led by a geneticist named Litvenko, who has since disappeared; though typically shadowy forces are apparently close to finding him.

An expository introduction isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately the storytelling doesn’t get any more nuanced from here on in.

This time around it’s Rupert Friend who dons the suit and red tie, and though the Brit has shown he has action chops with his work on Homeland, he doesn’t make for a terribly captivating Agent 47 – a character who isn’t exactly known for exuding charisma at the best of times.

Friend is tasked with tracking down Hannah Ware’s ‘mysterious’ Katia van Dees, who is somehow linked to Litvenko, while fending off a rival assassin played by the wooden Zachary Quinto, but the bulk of his screen time is spent shooting and spouting cringeworthy one-liners – none of which makes for particularly good viewing.

Directorially, Bach’s debut demonstrates a few moments of flair, but aside from some disorienting montage sequences and a couple of nicely choreographed chases, Agent 47 looks pretty bland. The problem extends to the set design too, which is probably the closest aspect to the source material in that everything possesses a generic videogame-environment sheen – some nice exterior shots of Singapore notwithstanding.

Frustratingly, Agent 47 hasn’t learned from its predecessor’s mistakes either. The previous Hitman movie was heavily criticised for its poor scripting and inane dialogue, and the same problems are even more evident this time around – probably because screenwriter Skip Woods was allowed to return once again after penning the first film.

Ware and Friend have minimal chemistry, Quinto’s leaden delivery isn’t helped by the bland lines he’s given, and even fine actors like Ciarán Hinds aren’t given enough scenery to chew to at least make things enjoyably ridiculous.

In fact, some more ridiculousness would go a long way towards making Agent 47 a better, or at least a more entertaining, film. Instead, however, we’re left with a movie that’s impossible to take seriously, but that’s also far too dull to be any fun.

All of which begs the question: who is Hitman: Agent 47 for? Action movie aficionados are unlikely to watch a more anaemic thriller this year and, a few visual nods aside, there’s little here to endear fans of the Hitman games either.

The videogame series has always prided itself on facilitating creative assassinations on high-profile targets in exotic locations across the globe – a simple but enduringly popular framework that has worked for over 15 years. Agent 47 takes that basic premise and strips it of any identity save for a red tie and a pair of handguns.

A good Hitman film should appeal to fans of the source material, engage thrill-seeking cineastes and, at the very least, satisfy theatregoers who want to sit in a dark room and be entertained. Unfortunately, on all of these counts, Agent 47 fails irredeemably.