The story is baffling, the characters disappointing and the twists anticlimactic, but this video game adaptation has violent energy.
There’s probably a more effective way of killing people, but extending both arms perpendicular to your chest as you spin and shoot handguns is certainly a photogenic method. With any luck, your long coat will billow, adding the right touch of panache. The emotionless assassin played by Rupert Friend at the heart of Aleksander Bach’s Hitman: Agent 47 uses this move a number of times, like a dancer proudly pirouetting or a jazz drummer returning to a specific fill he’s perfected.
This vaguely science-fiction action picture based on a video game (and not a sequel to 2007’s Hitman) is an idiotic mess with a bafflingly dense prologue, an endless final battle, lifeless performances and anticlimactic twists, but it does have a degree of visual flair. When the characters finally shut up and get to shooting, one must give credit to the creativity of the kills. Heads pop like ripe grapes, bodies flail as they are sucked into jet engines and arteries spray all over white staircases. While there’s zero to recommend about this film regarding its story or dialogue, it’s worth appreciating that it all seems very well rehearsed.
Katia Van Dees (Hannah Ware) is in Berlin, but she and everyone else speak English for some reason. She is troubled by visions and is trying desperately to find a mysterious man who haunts her memory. On her trail is Agent 47, a brutal force of death with a barcode on his shaved head. He’s part of a sinister programme of enhanced killers started by Van Dees’s father, and if he can get to her, maybe he can get to the mastermind, currently in hiding. Protecting Van Dees is John Smith, another agent, played by Zachary Quinto and his very intense eyebrows.
But does Van Dees need protecting? Of course not. For you see, she is actually the “chosen one”, the super agent who was, without her knowledge, bred to be the best of them all. (Her name isn’t really Katia van Dees, but Quatre Vingt Dix: Agent 90! That’s 43 better than the guy who’s trying to kill her!) She is able to use clairvoyant powers to see though walls and wriggle out of elaborate knots like Harry Houdini by way of Nadia Comăneci. And while you might be fooled into thinking this could lead to a badass female character in the vein of or , this is, unfortunately, not the case. Van Dees basically goes from clinging from one man to the other as they race to find her father.
The specifics of the chase are extremely unclear. The film opens with exposition-heavy narration that’s the cinematic equivalent of a drug commercial reading potential side-effects. I’d have an easier time explaining the ins and outs of the current crisis in Yemen than getting to the bottom of who the Syndicate are and what they want. Suffice it to say there’s an ultra-baddie named Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann) who spends all day in an all-white room surrounded by glass and cool light-up screens. It’s like he’s living inside a smartphone. Maybe he’s actually Siri, who knows? All I can say is that the technology in this movie looks really cool, but it’s frustrating. No one’s phones, tablets or computer screens look like anything from the real world and everyone always gets a signal. People are racing around talking to one another on mobiles with tiny earpieces nowhere near their mouths and everything sounds clear with nary a dropped signal. It’s infuriating. And, more to the point, with a movie this fundamentally uninteresting, there’s plenty of room to sit in the audience and muse on such issues.
If you power through, though, you’ll reach the big finish in Singapore’s Marina Bay, which has some striking architecture. Between the barely motivated murder ballets, our characters stay at some lovely hotels, too. You almost feel bad when henchmen come and get blood on the very stylish carpets.