Judge David Johnson is a contract killer. But only on the weekends.
"What are you going to do?"
The latest victim of the video game to feature film translation, Hitman arrives on Blu-ray with both guns blazing. But is homeboy shooting blanks?
Facts of the Case
Timothy Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard) stars as the nameless, shaved-head killing machine Agent 47, the most lethal assassin of the clandestine Organization. An international syndicate of contract killers, the Organization has no political allegiance, and its operatives take their orders from an anonymous computer voice.
Agent 47 finds his latest assignment is in Russia, where he's tasked with wasting a Moscow power player, but he soon discovers he's been set up. Now, with only the help of a beautiful prostitute (and, yes, she has a heart of gold) and his itchy trigger finger, Agent 47 will have to overcome a fusillade of bullets, a steady flow of machete wielding super agents, ill-tempered Eurotrash with partial facial growth, high-powered attack battle choppers, a kung fu guy with a collapsible cranium, and that mysterious heat sensation emanating from his groin whenever a topless drunk girl straddles him.
I'll confess: I have never played any Hitman game. As a gamer, I understand I am likely in the minority of the hardcore console adventurers to have not taken the action stealth franchise for a spin. As such, I won't be able to comment on the film's faithfulness to its source material, but in my experience, we gamers are pretty much satisfied with a big screen adaptation that a) features at least a handful of recognizable characters that bear a passing resemblance to their polygonal counterparts and b) doesn't suck as bad as Street Fighter.
At the very least, the filmmakers got the character resemblance right. Timothy Olyphant looks just like the video game character—maybe a little younger, I guess—sporting the black suit with the white shirt and red tie, the shaved head and a barcode stamped on the back of his skull. Unfortunately, his Agent 47 is as dull and lifeless as the series of 0's and 1's that make up his digital incarnation. Mopey and menacing, Agent 47 spends the entire film snarling and killing people with a blank expression on his face. Olyphant maintains this robotic demeanor pretty much from beginning to end. You see, he's not really a person, but more a lethal automaton, hence the bar code on the back of the head, which is kind of cool on the surface but I fail to see it having any practical benefit for a professional assassin whose primary task is to kill undetected.
Speaking of, Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible 2) plays a tenacious Interpol agent desperately trying to track Agent 47, yet somehow he fails to put out an APB on "bald man with bar code tattoo on the back of his head." No wonder he's working at Interpol. Scott injects acting energy into a film that is in need of charisma, and his presence is appreciated. The writers try to spice things up further with the requisite female role, and use her in an attempt at making our deadpan killer more accessible, but that relationship comes off forced and glaringly derivative of the Bourne/Marie dynamic in The Bourne Identity.
In the end, this emotional detachment ultimately sinks Hitman. Because, while the action is well-staged and loud, there aren't any stakes. Agent 47 is invincible and takes fewer hits than Steven Seagal, so when enters an action set-piece, whether it's a shootout with Russian mobsters or a karate match with other Agents, the outcome is never in doubt.
And no matter how stylized and violent the action is—and it is violent, with blood spewing every which way—if the main character plows through the bad guys like he was, well, a video game character, and there are no consequences to his actions, then what you've got is an action movie that's something worse than bad—boring.
Still, a kick-ass audio and visual presentation can make up for storytelling shortcomings, and Fox's Blu-ray production is a champ. The 2.35:1 widescreen high-def transfer is fantastic. Color levels are rich and on-target, and director Xavier Gens makes sure his action scenes are peppered with all sorts of wild hues and flying debris, perfectly suited for the enhanced clarity Blu-ray provides. When 47 lets loose with both barrels, in high-definition, the mayhem is a joy to watch. The sound is a perfect companion to the strong visuals. Featuring a 5.1 DTS lossless track, the audio is aggressive, sending the surround effects to all corners of your viewing area. And the excellent soundtrack pounds.
Extras include four nicely done featurettes (in HD): "In the Crosshairs," a making-of documentary, a segment on the video game called "Digital Hits," "Instruments of Destruction," a look at the music composition, and a feature on the weapons called "Instruments of Destruction." Rounding out the set are some forgettable deleted scenes, a darker alternative ending that I kind of preferred, and a gag reel. This set also features a second disc containing a digital copy of the film for use with personal media players.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is a hard-R action film. Boobs, blood, etc. For what it's worth.
Strong technical aspects don't quite overshadow a bland action film. And so we continue to wait for a feature film video game adaptation that doesn't disappoint. The prophecy says it will happen before this age passes, so here's hoping!
Disappointment abounds. Give this man some Rogaine.
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Scales of Justice
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