On paper, the Hitman franchise should work well as a movie. It’s all about an assassin trained from birth to be the perfect killer boi, going all around the world […]
On paper, the Hitman franchise should work well as a movie. It’s all about an assassin trained from birth to be the perfect killer boi, going all around the world picking off targets in a number of different ways while also being a dress up simulator. This was the 2000s so we already had the Bourne films and you could see how it dug its claws into the spy genre to the point where even James Bond started to take itself a lot more seriously in the aftermath of the Matt Damon incident. Sadly, a lot of other films also followed suit and by the latter half of the decade there was a sea of copycat films looking to grab a slice of Jason Bourne’s spy pie. Hitman (2007) is just another one of them and if it wasn’t for the fact that it licensed a video game franchise then there would be no memory of this film ever being released. The film was a fairly decent success despite critics being unkind to the film making $100 million on a budget of $24 million.
Agent 47 here is played by Timothy Olyphant – just coming off starring in the acclaimed drama Deadwood and would go on to continue having a very good career after this in shows such as Justified and Santa Clarita Diet. Joining him are future Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, Scottish actor Dougray Scott and Prison Break actor Robert Knepper.
The film starts with Agent 47 questioning Interpol agent Mike Whittier (Scott) whether he is a good man and “how does a good man know when to kill” with the entire film being presented as a flashback to when Mr. 47 was having a fun time killing people and getting paid to do it from his organisation. We get a little backstory about how he was essentially created from birth into the perfect killing machine that he is, complete with the barcode tattoo on the back of his head. However, he gets a job to assassinate the President of Russia and despite succeeding, he is told that Belicoff is still alive and even made a speech that day. 47 asks who hired him to do the hit but gets no answer, until Diana – his contact at the organisation – informs him directly that Belicoff was the one who put the hit out on himself. Following? Good.
However, the Russian military and their secret police led by Yuri Marklov (Knepper) ignore orders from Whittier and refuse to recognise his authority in the case. They go to arrest 47 but he reacts in typical super assassin manner and kills everyone in his way before jumping into the river to escape. It turns out that 47’s organisation has now put out a hit on 47 himself. A girl he was sent to kill because she was a witness to 47 killing Belicoff, Nika Boronina (Kurylenko), is taken captive by our lovable assassin as he realises that she was no witness at all. She was, however, an unwitting pawn in the assassination of 47 from another baldie bastard. After telling 47 everything she knows, which wasn’t a lot except that Belicoff had body doubles which would explain why one was clearly killed yet popped up alive immediately after, 47 refuses to kill her and instead drags her along as her life is also in danger.
They head to a train station but 47 is being tailed by the older bald assassin from earlier. After shooting him in several limbs, 47 chases after a bunch more assassins and they have a big sword fight in a train (?) which 47 obviously wins. He goes back to finish the job on the original assassin but see’s Nika hiding there despite ordering her to wait at the platform. 47 is then caught by Interpol agents, shooting one in the arm and the other in the ribs but Nika stops him from killing them both before they catch their train.
Nika and 47’s wild adventure continues as they meet up with a CIA contact – albeit 47 is hiding on a nearby rooftop looking on through a sniper rifle scope. They strike a deal – the CIA agent gives 47 information on how to get to Belicoff’s brother so he can kill him in exchange 47 requires a favour. A deal is struck – 47 and Nika are getting along swimmingly now and they go to dinner. There, 47 grabs a drink that wasn’t meant to him and apologises to the waiter for his mistake. As our hitman impresses Nika with his incredible memory however, a man starts coughing and vomiting nearby – it just so happened that the drink 47 grabbed was for this poor gentleman. Agent follows him to the bathroom, kills his guards and then kills the man in question – a weapons dealer set to meet Udre Belicoff, the brother of the president.
Nika and 47 get back to the hotel room and a drunk Nika tries to sleep with the charmingly stoic 47, who responds by injecting her so hard it puts her ass to sleep. This isn’t a weird euphemism for sex by the way, he legit knocks her out cold with an injection as he leaves her for the night so he can take care of his business. He finds Udre Belicoff, one of his men informs the coked up weapons dealer that he isn’t dealing with the right person. Udre responds by trying to kill Agent 47. Agent 47 responds by killing the entire room in a big giant gunfight. Just like the series is famous for. Udre is the last one alive but a bullet to the head and his body falls into a pool. A scene that would be ripped off by the video game Scarface: The World Is Yours a year earlier. Despicable.
Interpol gets wind of Udre’s death and the reason why Agent 47 wanted him dead became clear – President Belicoff would obviously be at his own brother’s funeral. Except we learn that the Belicoff that is still alive is the original body double who has come up with the scheme to kill the original president and take his place, eventually killing off everyone who could potentially ruin his plan. He is angry at Yuri for not capturing and/or killing 47 quickly enough for he is the only one left who could spoil the party. 47 sends Nika on her way, much to her dismay, and he goes back to Russia to finish the job he started – killing Belicoff.
First he takes a detour and captures Yuri, setting up some extravagant Saw-like situation – tying Yuri in a bath with barbed wire and a generator that will fry him unless he gives an order to a sniper in his patrol to shoot Belicoff at the funeral. Despite there being a hundred guards and making his speech behind bulletproof glass, Yuri gives the order at the last second – his sniper and 47 shoots at Belicoff until the glass shatters but fails to kill him. He is rushed off up the tower but then Agent 47, disguised as a heavily armoured guard, kills the troop and locks Belicoff in a room. He tries to negotiate with 47 but 47 haggles him down to taking a bullet to the head. He’s not the shrewdest negotiator in the world it’s got to be said. A gunship fires indiscriminately into the room but 47 avoids getting hit but then sits down and waits to be arrested by Interpol.
As they drive them off they are cornered by the CIA and in the kerfuffle, 47 makes his escape – thus the CIA agent repays his debt from earlier. We go back to the present time where 47 presents Whittier with another assassin’s body and gives him the opportunity to call that one in as 47 himself, so 47 can live out his days in peace. The film ends with Nika receiving an envelope with the deeds for a vineyard (she mentioned she always wanted one earlier in the film) that 47 obviously paid for as he watches on through the sniper scope of YET ANOTHER assassin who was trying to kill Nika. The film ends.
I want to say that there are worse films out there than Hitman (2007), heck there have already been worse video game films out by this point. The problem with Hitman is that it follows the 2000s spy film formula completely and utterly – there is very little here that I haven’t already seen multiple times in other movies. Even ignoring that it fails to resemble a Hitman movie in most ways, it just fails to be an interesting movie on it’s own merit. It’s violent – I mean someone’s arm gets chopped off in the first five minutes, there are multiple gory explosions of blood after headshots and one guy gets stabbed in the hand with a sword which honestly would just ruin my day if that happened to me. There are some gratuitous nudity in the form of Nika as well, including a scene in her tragic backstory where she is being whipped for trying to escape Belicoff. It’s supposed to make you feel sorry for Nika but it just felt a little too much for me.
Timothy Olyphant is a very good actor. He’s a charismatic guy. Having Timothy Olyphant play a stoic, emotionless assassin is an utterly bizarre casting choice. The one thing they tried to stick true to was Agent 47’s emotionless attitude – at least for most of the film – but it feels like a waste of Olyphant’s abilities to cast him in this role. I do not know exactly how you would properly portray a character like Agent 47 in a film that takes itself as seriously as this one does without tweaking the character somewhat so I get it but at that point you have to wonder whether it’s worth doing a Hitman movie at all. The answer was that this movie made $100 million at the box office.
If you can’t get the most out of your main star then the supporting cast needs to be golden and there’s some decent acting here but none of the other characters except for Nika are all that memorable. Yuri and Whittier have a fued about who’s gonna capture the big bad baldie bastard as a subplot but it ends up being several scenes of two men going “I’M IN CHARGE HERE” “NO, I’M IN CHARGE HERE”, “NOOOO, *I’M* IN CHARGE HERE!”, “NO, I AMMMMMMMM“. Nika is at least somewhat likeable and I had the thought that “yeah, she looks like a Bond girl” and then I was reminded by Google that she was indeed a Bond girl in Quantum of Solace.
Hitman is a product of its time, from the fast paced editing in the action scenes, to the techno soundtrack and to the uninspired story. It’s caught between being an action blockbuster and being a spy thriller and while it is a semi-decent action film, the thriller part falls apart due to how predictable and lifeless the film is. I’m not even going to compare it to the games because the only one I’ve ever played much of is the 2016 reboot which is a game that has a darkly deadpan comic tone to it depending on how players choose to play it. This movie doesn’t quite make up its lack of interesting ideas with fun action scenes either, but it isn’t offensively bad or anything. It’s just boring.
FINAL SCORE –
Next week we’ll be looking at Hitman: Agent 47, which was co-written by the same person who wrote this Hitman movie, but is a complete reboot. Joy.