Hitman: Agent 47

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday August 21, 2015

Rupert Friend and Hannah Ware star in 'Hitman: Agent 47'
Rupert Friend and Hannah Ware star in 'Hitman: Agent 47'  (Source:Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

"Hitman: Agent 47" isn't so much a sequel to the 2007 film "Hitman," in which Timothy Olyphant played the title character, as it is a fresh start.

In the earlier film, the hitman was simply named Agent 47. So too here, where he's played by Rupert Friend. The plot is thick and messy, and it's hard to parse exactly what's going on, so vague is the explanation (given in voice-over), but it's something like this: A project to create superior soldiers through genetic engineering gave rise to a program of elite assassins, one of whom is Agent 47. The man who spearheaded the original program, a scientist called Litvenko (CiarŠn Hinds), has been in hiding for decades even as parties interested in resurrecting the program scour the world for him.

Reasoning that Litvenko might have a child, a group called The Syndicate launch a search for a hypothetical daughter whom, they reckon, should look like Hannah Ware. When their world-spanning search of surveillance video locates a young woman of that description named Katia living in Austria, they send a fellow called John Smith (Zachary Quinto) to fetch her back, in hopes that she will provide them a lead as to her father's whereabouts.

But Smith has to contend with Agent 47, who is also hot on Katia's trail. Smith has some technological upgrades that make him a match for the genetically engineered Agent 47; you can be sure a clutch of well-choreographed fight sequences are in store. (You can also bet that while the boys are fighting, Katia will only sporadically prove to be an effective fighter, given that she's a girl and this movie is based on a video game. Screenwriters Skip woods and Michael Finch don't put it in those terms -- they have some technobabble justifications as to Katia's lack of skill and confidence -- but that's what comes across.)

What you can't be sure of (nor can Katia) is which among the two combatants is friend, and which is foe. It takes a nation-hopping chain of adventures and a face-to-face encounter with an even more ruthless fellow named Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann), the head of the Syndicate, to sort it all out. But who's going to stick with this convoluted plotting when the basic premise is so tired, the performances so wooden, and the action so trite and numbing? The movie plods along with the usual inane gunplay and explosions, offering some pretty scenery but not much else to hold your interest.

In more inspired hands, this might have been a lot more clever -- and a lot more fun. But the cookie-cutter nature of the plot and the film's ham-handed script and direction add up to a fast trip to nowhere, capped off with some of the most blatant (and ridiculous) sequel-grasping you'll see this summer. Lots of no-name extras get wasted in this exercise, but the biggest waste of all is the spurned opportunity to do something interesting.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.