I feel like my thoughts on Hitman: Agent 47 can be summed up by the ecstatic cackle that erupted from my friend’s throat when a henchman 47 threw down a stairwell ate a banister on his way to the bottom. The visuals in the first ten minutes of the film had me so far on board the hype train I might as well have been conducting it. Not only were those minutes filled with amazing action, they also paid homage to the series through recreating the game covers and showcasing key game mechanics. Now I am sure my positive stance, given the terrible critical reviews, may surprise some people. But just because something is problematic does not stop me from enjoying it, and in the same hand just because I enjoy something does not mean I will not admit it is problematic.
As much as I was hoping Hitman: Agent 47 would turn the tides in favor of film adaptations for video game franchises, I do not think this will happen. Like the Silent Hill and Resident Evil movies that came before, the visuals were fantastic but the story was lacking in more ways than one. Screenwriter Skip Woods, who also wrote the original Hitman movie, struggles to take the fifty-plus hours of game play from each game and format it into a ninety-six minute film. Too much is thrown into the mix far too early, not giving the characters enough time to develop naturally with the story. Due to this rush to get the plot moving we end up with half-baked characters like John Smith (Zachary Quinto) and Katia van Dees (Hannah Ware) who had the potential to be fairly interesting but end up feeling very hollow and too reliant on action tropes.
Now, despite its title, people must not go into the theater expecting Agent 47 to be the main character. Though he plays a large role, and is portrayed magnificently by Rupert Friend, the story focuses on Katia van Dees. For as long as she can remember she has been on a quest to find her father, the scientist that spearheaded the program to make genetically modified assassins known simply as “agents.” When a mysterious organization seeks to restart the Agent Program, Katia teams up with Agent 47 to get to her father before anyone else does.
Although Katia’s character has the potential to be fairly interesting the story is not entirely sure what to do with her. Aside from being a vector for finding her father, there is almost no point to her character. So the script switches back and forth from her being the scared, frantic girl pulled into a mysterious world of assassins and shadow organizations to a girl who is completely comfortable with all of this. They also try to use her to force a kind of “humanity” onto Agent 47, which seems overly existential for the movie and comes up completely out of nowhere. I feel that because there was so much that could have been done with her character the writers tossed it all in there and hoped for the best.
Had Agent 47 truly been the main character then I feel that the story could have gone much farther, and still retained that jaw-dropping action that had me hooked despite the movie’s flaws. Because as “hollow” as some people may consider a cold-blooded assassin to be, 47 is anything but. Rupert Friend plays him so that his actions are mechanical like a trained killer should be, but with a bit of humor underneath it all. I could not help but laugh at some of his kills, and smile at the calm manner that he pursues his targets.
So what is my verdict? Could have been better, could have been worse. It is certainly a step in the right direction for video game movies, albeit a small one. But at the end of the day the movie was thoroughly entertaining which is all I was looking for when I stepped into that theater. If you want to see a super-cool assassin perform some amazing kills while destroying a decent amount of property in the process then I would recommend seeing this movie. (And, for extra fun, bring a highly enthusiastic friend with you to provide colorful commentary.)