Wednesday, September 16, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: Hitman: Agent 47

Welp, it looks like summer's definitely over. The days are getting shorter, the temperature's cooling, and all the big budget blockbusters are fading from the theaters, replaced by duds the studios are trying to unload. It's like the changing of the seasons!

Hitman: Agent 47 was written by Michael Finch & Skip Woods (it took two people to write this?) and directed by Aleksander Bach.

Woods previously wrote the original Hitman, Swordfish, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team, A Good Day To Die Hard and Sabotage, which tells you everything you need to know about his career. How the hell does this man keep getting work? Blackmail photos? A contract with Satan?

Finch cowrote The November Man and Predators (which was actually a pretty good film).

Bach is a director of music videos and TV commercials. Hitman: Agent 47 is his cinematic directorial debut. Don't buy that boat just yet, Aleksander!

Was anyone out there really clamoring for another Hitman film? Someone? Anyone? I can't see how. I have a ticket stub from the original 2007 film, so I apparently saw it, but darned if I can remember a single thing about it. By all indications it was a critical and box office failure, grossing less than $40 million dollars. Why would any studio in their right mind ever want to make another?

I don't understand why Hollywood keeps trying to make movies based on video games. That trick never works! OK, so the original Mortal Kombat was pretty good, but it came out twenty years ago! It's time to throw in the video game movie towel.

So what the hell is this film? Is it a sequel, a reboot or a remake? I honestly don't care enough to try and figure it out. These "requels" seem to be the hot trend this year, as Terminator Genysis, Mad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World and Vacation all came out this summer and fall into this category.

SPOILERS, I GUESS!

The Plot:
I'll try and be brief here to spare us all any unnecessary pain. In the far off year of 1967, Dr. Peter Litvenko headed a program that created genetically perfect assassins, which were imaginatively called Agents. These Agents had abnormally high strength, speed and agility, and were completely emotionless. Litvenko realized such a program was a mistake and disappeared, leaving behind a young daughter named Katia.

Over the years many agencies tried to replicate the Agent Program without  success. One of these agengies, Syndicate International, realizes the only way to produce their own Agents is to find Litvenko. Agent 47 (played by Rupert Friend) is assigned to prevent this from happening.

The now adult Katia is also searching the world for her father. She's approached by a man who calls himself John Smith (played by Zachary Quinto), who tells her that Agent 47 is going to kill her, and she needs his protection. 47 appears, shoots Smith in the chest and captures Katia.

Agent 47 then explains to Katia that they're both part of the same program, but that she's more advanced. He trains her (very) briefly in how to use her previously unknown abilities. They're attacked by the Syndicate, including John Smith, who's somehow still alive. Smith is apparently a Syndicate Agent, and is nigh-indestructible. They escape and flee to Singapore, where Katia's father Litvenko is in hiding.

They find Litvenko, who's now dying and needs an inhaler to breathe. He apologizes to Katia for abandoning her when she as young, and tells her that Agent 47 is her brother. The Syndicate attacks again, and Agent 47 secretly slips a special explosive inhaler into Litvenko's pocket. Litvenko is captured and taken to Syndicate International headquarters.

Smith then tortures Litvenko to force him to restart the Agent Program. Agent 47 and Katia infiltrate Syndicate Headquarters to stage a rescue. 47 manages to electrocute Smith. LeClerq, the head of Syndicate, grabs Litvenko and flies off in a helicopter. Litvenko detonates it with his handy explosive inhaler.

With the Syndicate threat eliminated, Agent 47's handler Diana calls him and tells him to complete his mission by killing Katia. He refuses, dropping the phone off the side of the building. Why, it's as if this emotionless killer has developed feelings for his sister after all! As he and Katia leave, they're confronted by Agent 48, who looks exactly like 47. Katia and Agent 47 fire their guns at him as we fade to black and the film mercifully ends.

Thoughts:
• The movie starts out with the dreaded Narrated Infodump, trying in vain to fill us in on the details of this world and explain what we're about to see. With very few exceptions, if you see one of these infodumps you should immediately gather your belongings and exit the theater in a brisk and orderly manner. 

The infodump helpfully informs us that the Agent program was started in the futuristic year of 1967. You remember the Sixties, don't you? The Beatles, the Summer Of Love, and the decade in which we mapped out the human genome? No? That didn't happen until 2003? Well, I'm sure we must have had some way to genetically alter humans back then anyway. 

So Agent 47 was apparently born in the 1960s. The movie appears to take place in the present day, but he doesn't look like he's in his fifties. Did his altered genes slow down his aging process? 

I'm assuming all this is covered in the video games, but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

• Agent 47 sports an identifying bar code tattoo or brand or something on the back of his neck. Need I point out that bar codes weren't invented until 1973?

• Very little of this movie makes any sense, but it takes place in some gorgeous and exotic locations, so at least you can entertain yourself by watching all the travelogue scenery.

• I'm not quite sure, but there may be a slight possibility that Audi helped finance this film. Virtually every car in the entire film is an Audi, and the camera lovingly caresses every curve of each and every beautifully lit luxury sedan.

• Once again we get a Hitman movie featuring an actor who doesn't look the least bit menacing. Take a look at the character from the video game here. Note his severe hatchet-jawed face and soulless glare. 

Now look at the actors who've been picked to play him. Timothy Olyphant played the title character in 2007's Hitman. He's a decent actor, but once he shaved his head he looked like he was about twelve years oldNote to producers— a hitman who looks like a giant baby isn't intimidating.

This time out we get Rupert Friend (whoever that is), who's way too young and looks amazingly like a bald Legolas from The Lord Of The Rings. Again, guys— wispily built, bald man-elves aren't threatening.

Surely there's a steely-eyed, bald actor somewhere in Hollywood who'd be a better fit for this part?

• Agent 47 deliberately gets captured at the US Embassy in Berlin so he can rescue Katia. Or maybe kill her, I have no idea. This "Getting Captured As Part Of A Master Plan" plot point is getting old fast. I see it over and over in action and comic book movies. Loki even did it in The Avengers!

As Agent 47 is being questioned, he tells his interrogator, "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me." Jesus Christ! I'd have done a spit take during that scene if I could afford the movie theater's $8 soft drinks. That's one of the most famous lines from Watchmen, uttered by psychotic vigilante/anti-hero RorschachDid they really think they could get away with swiping one of the most famous movie quotes from the past ten years?

• The organization trying to wipe out the Agent program is called Syndicate International. That has to be the blandest, most generic name possible. Were "Amalgamated Cartel" and "Multinational Conglomerate" already taken?

• When we first see Agent John Smith, he's standing over a dead man lying in a bathtub, with a toaster floating in it. It's implied that Smith killed the man by tossing the toaster into the water, electrocuting him.

Whoops! That might have worked back in the 1960s, but these days you can't kill yourself (or your spouse) that way. We now have GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interupter) outlets to protect  against just such a thing. When these circuits detect a power surge, they trip the breaker and shut off the juice to the outlet.

• John Smith survives several point blank gunshot wounds because he has "subdermal titanium armor." That's right, he has goddamned bullet proof armor under his skin. Not only is he still somehow alive after that was implanted, but he's still the relative size of a normal human male. You know, even for a video game movie, that's pretty far-fetched. At least Wolverine just has adamantium-coated bones.

• Agent 47 captures Katia and for some reason hides her to a jet engine factory. He ties her to a chair in front of a massive jet engine, and tells her she's an Agent like him. She doesn't believe him, so in order to prove it and unlock her Agent-y potential, he activates the jet engine and leaves. She then has only seconds to somehow free herself from the chair before she's sucked into the engine and ground into a fine powder.

Um... that's kind of an extreme method of training, isn't it? What if she hadn't been able to untie herself in time? Didn't 47 kind of need her in order to find Litvenko and complete his contract?

• Agent 47's handler is Diana Burnwood, who's played by Hong Kong model, singer and actress Angelababy. Yeah, I've never heard of her either, but she's a big deal in Asia.

Angelababy LITERALLY, in every sense of the word, phones in her performance. She's only in a few brief scenes, and she and Agent 47 never once appear together. Instead she calls him on the phone, giving him orders and advice. It looks for all the world like a camera crew filmed her on the way to her next modeling gig.

Hitman: Agent 47 is an unwanted and unasked for sequel (or remake or reboot, who knows?) to a mediocre movie based on a video game. You'd have just as good a time sitting on the edge of your bed and staring at the floor. I give it a C.

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