Hitman: Agent 47 may be the closest Hollywood has come to adapting a game franchise into a coherent Hollywood film. Far from the Mario Bros., the Uwe Boll disasters, and the half-dozen Resident Evil films audiences have been subjected to, Hitman: Agent 47 does a solid “standard action film” impression. Short of actually starring Jason Statham (it unfortunately doesn’t), Hitman still feels more like an overdone Statham vehicle than a video game movie. I’m just not sure Agent 47 benefits from things like being coherent and legitimate, as the end result isn’t all that entertaining.
The film uses the backstory of the Hitman game series as a foundation, with the lab-created Agent program serving as a jumping-off point for a deeper plot. Agent 47 himself looks the part, and he does indeed do some Hitman-y things, but the film falls short of capturing the essence of the Hitman world. Sure, he puts on a disguise here and there, he looks the part, and he has the signature weapons, but these things never serve the larger plot or action in any meaningful way.
Hitman: Agent 47 feels late to the party, as I couldn’t help thinking of last year’s John Wick the entire time. Now that was protagonist that felt like a professional killer! What’s more, the world he inhabited had clear rules (like gold coins for successful jobs) and lore (The Continental Hotel and all its denizens). It felt like the best kind of video game world-building, despite not being based on any game. John Wick provided a blueprint for a game adaptation I wish Hitman had gone for.
Instead we get a film that seems interested in celebrating its source material, but after two-decades of failed video game adaptations it shies away from fully embracing it. We don’t get complex sequences of stealth-action, with Agent 47 utilizing his environment to blend in and kill creatively. Instead we get hard-hitting car chases and shootouts. Rather than the action taking creative twists and turns, the plot does (sort of), with various characters double-crossing and revealing allegiances. Where Hitman sprinkles in some video game bits here and there, it’s really using the storytelling building blocks made famous by films like The Bourne Identity and The Transporter.
What’s more, the film’s own best ideas are underutilized. Zachary Quinto’s character, John Smith, grafts a layer of titanium into his skin, making him virtually bulletproof. It’s a ridiculous idea, but the end result is this Terminator-like threat that could have built some serious suspense and tension. Instead he is consistently bested by Agent 47 at every turn, making him more of a dopey obstacle that won’t go away. This, despite a lingering concept throughout the film that Agent 47 is an obsolete model of killer — a theme that never truly limits his character or amounts to anything.
Hitman: Agent 47 left me in a weird spot, wishing the film had further embraced some of the unique elements of the source material, but knowing that that road is what made previous game adaptations such unmitigated disasters. The strict adherence to video game source material is why we have things like the awful first-person shooter sequence in Doom, after all. Yet I couldn’t help but feel like that extra slice of cheesiness would have helped here.
As it stands, Hitman: Agent 47 is a serviceable experience that ascends beyond the typical video game adaptation. But with the bar set so low, you’re still getting something woefully generic and forgettable. In the attempt to bring some legitimacy to the video game adaptation, Agent 47 strips itself of any identity. The end result leaves me wondering if something more memorable would have came out of another epic disaster of a video game film.