Friday, 2 October 2015

Movie Review: Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

One of the main reasons why I don’t even try to be objective in these reviews is that there are several conflicting ways that a film can be enjoyed. It can be from how legitimately good a film is or it can be from how unbelievably bad a film is, and any variation between the two. While it’s easy enough to get a grasp on what film is legitimately good, it’s a little harder to determine what makes an enjoyably bad film, since it falls under that generally ambiguous realm of subjectivity that is comedy. What’s more, people rarely if ever actively find a film that fits into that category on purpose; somehow, I doubt that the phenomenon that is The Room was actively sought out for in the beginning. It is with all this in mind that we venture into today’s subject: This is Hitman: Agent 47.


The plot: Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) is the result of a now-defunct project to create genetically-engineered assassins that have near-superhuman strength and agility. However, a criminal organization known as the Syndicate (yep, another film where the enemy is just called ‘The Syndicate’) want to recreate the Agent Program by tracking down its creator: Dr. Livenko (CiarĂ¡n Hinds). As a means of getting to her, they try to find Katia (Hannah Ware) and she and 47 end up teaming up to try and find Livenko on their own before the Syndicate can create their own Agent army.

Oh my word, where do I start with this thing? Well, for starters, the title is incredibly misleading. A more appropriate title for this film would be Hitman: Guest Starring Agent 47 since, as the trailer didn’t even attempt to hide, Katia is very much the focus of this film. Now, as much as I want to point out how this is where all of the sexist comments relating to Fury Road should have been aimed at, just because she’s the focus doesn’t mean that she is in any way useful to the overall proceedings. She mostly just serves as walking fanservice while 47 kills most of the goons of the film, despite them constantly mentioning how she is supposed to be even better than 47 at all this. 47, on the other hand, couldn’t be any less life-like if they had just replaced him with a paper printout of his in-game avatar. Say what you will about the 2000’s Hitman movie, as there are some definite problems with it, but Timothy Olyphant had the presence needed to pull off the calm and confident assassin. Rupert Friend, on the other hand, makes the common mistake of mistaking utter lack of emotion for suppressed emotion. We also get Zachary Quinto as John Smith, a name just as lazily generic as the organization he works for, who honestly wouldn’t be all that threateningly if it weren’t for a certain ‘upgrade’ that he’s given that essentially makes him invincible. Said upgrade is liquid titanium that gets injected just underneath the skin and hardens to form sub-dermal armour. If that doesn’t make sense to you, know that you’re not alone. Seriously, this film has the restraint and general sense of character building of fanfiction: Shifting focus away from the main character to a new one (whom they are conveniently related to), said new character being inexplicably more powerful than the original and rampant BS science to explain why the mains don’t die. Not since 300: Rise Of An Empire have I seen a writer care this little about suspension of disbelief, and considering this is co-written by the guy who did the first Hitman movie, this is kind of surreal. Then again, in-between these films, he broke the hearts of Deadpool fanboys everywhere with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and gave a lengthy fuck-you to fans with A Good Day To Die Hard, so chances are he’s only gotten worse with age.

Not that the only failing here is with the characterization. In actuality, the entire production looks like a straight-to-DVD cash-in that miraculously made it into theatres. It’s rare that a film will start off on this bad a footing, but points for completely rolling the right ankle with the first action scene. Shot in gloriously disorienting Seizure-Vision with blinking lights that made it genuinely difficult to watch, it also featured some plain vanilla incompetent cinematography that makes me long for the days of found-footage fare. Admittedly, it doesn’t quite enter that same realm of “This couldn’t have looked good, even on paper” but rest assured that there is not one set piece where it is positively clear what’s going on. Actually, scratch that, there is one scene where that’s the case: The car chase with 47 and Katia in a bright red Audi, a scene shot so lovingly tailored to the car more than anything else that I wouldn’t be surprised if Audi fronted the entire budget for the film in exchange. Add to that shoddy effects work that makes even the first Hitman game look like PS4-style visuals by comparison, and we’ve entered the depths of half-rendered CGI not seen since I, Frankenstein lumbered its way to theatres.

The plot, if it can even be said to have one, sticks to the standard action film framework of existing solely to string action scenes together. This means that it is supposedly allowed to skimp on the minor things like coherency. Of course, stripping down the plot just so you can get to the action doesn’t really work when said action is this badly executed, not to mention kind of insane on several levels. The airplane hangar scene, which mainly revolves around a singular jet engine, opens on a feat of implausibility that not even this franchise’s genesis in video games can justify and then ends on SFX so bad that it induces immediate laughter as we get the death of Syndrome via CD-I graphics. Or, if that is too esoteric, people get sucked into a jet engine in a way that induces immediate laughter. This may sound like standard action film fare, especially for anyone who has kept up with the Fast & Furious series of late, but this is why execution and tone are so important. Under ideal conditions, it would still be difficult for an MA-rated film to pull off death by jet engine or explosive asthma inhaler grenade with anything resembling a straight face. When the production looks like something the Syfy Channel would question airing and the story is this nonsensical, it comes across more like a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon done without any irony or self-awareness.

All in all, this is almost a perfect storm of an enjoyably bad film where all the jagged pieces align to create a viewing experience that somehow manages to outdo San Andreas in terms of the ironic movie experience. The acting is plasticine, the effects work is atrocious and the writing should serve as a cautionary tale of what happens when a fan boy thinks he can make a film; Rule of Cool isn’t enough to save a movie. It ranks lower than Seventh Son as, in a rare moment of objectivity, I recognize that this film is a hell of a lot cheaper-looking than that film. However, this still gave me some level of enjoyment even as a guilty pleasure; Self/Less, on the other hand, was just a mass disappointment. As soon as this film comes out on DVD, I honestly recommend checking out this film with a group of snarky friends; this is the kind of film that was designed to be made fun of. If you’re not the kind of movie-goer who can enjoy a film ironically, there is nothing for you here.

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