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Can We Hit the Reset Button?

Every year movie studios release videogame adaptations hoping to translate the billions the videogame industry makes every year into sizable box office returns. In most cases, the producers of videogame adaptations are disappointed, which brings us to the adaptation of EIDOS’ long-running franchise (four games with a fifth on the way), Hitman, an ultra-violent, overblown, clichéd actioner.

Raised by the “Organization” to be an emotionless, brutally efficient killer without a name, Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant), gets his latest assignment: the assassination of the Russian president, Mikhail Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen), ostensibly by hardliners unhappy with his policies. Always dressed in a dark suit, white shirt, and red tie, the bald-headed Agent 47 is all the more conspicuous by the barcode tattooed to the back of his head that he doesn’t bother to hide.

If you’re familiar with Hitman the videogame, then you know that coolness trumps logic each and every time. Given the needs of the plot, Agent 47 hasn’t gone unnoticed by Interpol. One of their field agents, identified only as Mike (Dougray Scott), has been tracking Agent 47 and his bloody handiwork across Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Agent 47 apparently hits his mark, but minutes later Belicoff emerges from the crowd alive, if slightly worse for wear. Given how easily he stands out in a crowd, Agent 47 believes his handler, Diana, when she informs him that a witness saw him at some point during the assassination attempt, but when Agent 47 spots the witness, Nika (Olga Kurylenko), on a crowded sidewalk he hesitates. Realizing that the Organization has sent other assassins after him, Agent 47 grabs Nika and goes on the run. Almost immediately, the enmity between Agent 47 and Nika dissolves into romantic attachment, or at least it does when he’s not drugging her so he can kill his way to the men behind Belicoff’s “fake” assassination and the contract on Agent 47 and Nika.

Where to begin with all that ails Hitman? Let’s start with an uninspired screenplay by Skip Woods (Swordfish). Forget cleverer-than-thou one-liners or sophisticated wordplay. Woods’ derivative script “delivers” a storyline that shamelessly begs, borrows, and steals from the Bourne trilogy. Besides the trite, predictable storyline, Woods manages to tell us next to nothing about Agent 47 or the Organization that recruited him. For that we’d have to wait for the sequel apparently (wishful thinking on someone’s part).

Then there’s Xavier Gens' over-emphatic, hyperstylized direction of the repetitive gunplay and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it swordplay, with Agent 47 doing his "best" imitation of action demigod Chow Yun Fat. In short, Gens approach to translating Hitman from videogame to screen is as subtle as a brass-knuckled punch to the back of the head or a kick from a steel-toed boot to the groin.

It’s hard to say whether fans of the videogame will find much of anything to like here. While Timothy Olyphant superficially resembles the Agent 47 character, he delivers his lines with little enthusiasm (understandable, given the script he had to work with). Ukrainian actress Olga Kurylenko doesn’t have a problem with wearing very little or nothing at all in most of her scenes, but does a credible job emoting for the cameras when the screenplay calls for it. And that’s it as far as the otherwise undistinguished cast goes. Ultimately, the best that can be said about Hitman is that moviegoers will forget it moments after they exit the movie theater (if not sooner).

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars