Tuesday, September 1, 2015

MR Hitman (2007)

With a new Hitman film on the big screen - a reboot no less! - it's time to look back at the first Hitman movie.

All this movie really needed was a video game adaptation tie-in. How fun would it have been to play the video game of the film of the video game series!?!
Time to dig out the past, M. 47! Reviews of the Hitman series:

Movie: Hitman (2007) or Hitman (movie)
Directed by Xavier Gens 
Release date 2007
Genre Action/Thriller film
Country France/USA

Don't let the heavily photoshopped cover art and posters of the film fool you, this film won't ever look that faithful to the game.

Hitman is a 2007 film adaptation of the video game series of the same name. It was made by French director Xavier Gens, mostly known for one of the segments of the horror anthology The ABCs of Death. The film was a French/American co-production between EuropaCorp and 20th Century Fox.

It all began when Eidos and IO Interactive became interested in producing an Hollywood film adaptation of the Hitman series. They quickly found a film partner in 20th Century Fox, who really liked the idea. They acquired the rights behind the series.

For a really long time there were plans to have Vin Diesel as executive producer and starring in the lead role as Agent 47 in the film. In fact the idea was to even start using Vin Diesel's likeness in the games as well, which would have become co-productions between IO Interactive and Vin's game studio company Tigon Studios (responsible for the fantastic Chronicles of Riddick games). Good or bad decision, we won't ever know if that would have made a far between film, all those plans would lose momentum and finally fell off in 2006.

Once that entire first attempt at bringing 47 to the big screen was scrapped, a completely different film was quickly put in place, which is what we ended up having.

Hitman starts several TV actors. Timothy Olyphant was cast as our main protagonist (or anti-hero), who apparently simply accepted the role for some cash as he often stated (just listen to his Nerdist podcast if you wanna hear the truth..). Alongside Dougray Scott, Robert Knepper and 2008 Bond girl Olga Kurylenko who keeps popping in these these similar type of roles if you see things like the Hitman or Max Payne film adaptations.

The movie opens with a quickly-edited look at some secret "asylum" where the government (?) had these missing orphans trained to become killing machines. Complete with bad code tattoos on the back of their head, firearm and hand-to-hand training before growing up to be hitmen for hire.

The story revolves around this specific titular Hitman, Agent 47. Raised from birth to be the best assassin. He's now seen working for "The Organization" (originally "The Agency" in the games.

We are introduced to Interpol agent Mike Whittier. He was coming home... only to find Agent 47 there waiting for him. We then go back a few months before, in a way to mimic the structure of some of the stories from the Hitman games.

Three months before, 47 had an hit on the Russian President. It was just supposed to be a quick hit from the shadows. But his employers contact him after the deed to tell him there was a witness. He finds this girl who apparently witnessed his assassination only to discover she hadn't even seen him - they were trying to intercept him and leaked his location to the Russian Federal Security Services. 47 soon finds himself on the run. He contacts his handler, Diana from The Organization. The contracted was in fact the Russian President himself, ordering an hit on himself! Why!? 47 escapes the hotel he was staying in with this woman, Nika. She was actually the president's mistress.

The President turns out to be alive, despize 47 never missing a target.

47 finds himself ensnared in this huge political conspiracy, on the run from both Interpol and the Russian intelligence.

The President had a body double. And the hit was on the real guy, while the double is now taking his place. They wanted 47 killed to keep it secret. Several other agents from The Organization are sent after him while 47 escapes with Nika...

This Hitman movie is... Well, let's just say it takes quite some liberties with the source material.

It deviates significantly from the games by taking the whole clone element out of the film. 47 is now some kidnapped orphaned child, bred from his youngest age to become the deadliest killer (instead of genetically altered to be the deadliest killer).

And to tell that story, Fox used recycled stock footage from the TV show Dark Angel (which they own), to save money. Which also explains why there's some inconsistencies where the bar code tattoos appear to be on the back of the head in the flashback scenes compared to later in the film itself.

The big main action sequence in the entire film is easily the big sword fight between 47 and 3 other agents in a train. It's a pretty fun scene but it does seem to come out of nowhere, as both Interpol and the Russian police seem completely missing from the film by that point. It's kind of hilarious how all these agents seem to carry swords around for that exact purpose (some kind of unspoken code between agents??).

Also the whole plot with Nika seem kind of pointless, poorly implemented and goes for way too long. Nika is just a random forced-in love interest with very little to do in the film beside the first arc. For some reason 47 just keeps her around and then starts traveling around Russia with her...  The more time passes, as 47 keeps ignoring her advances, the more she appears to fall completely in love with the guy!!

Hitman is not exactly an "awful film", but it comes close to it. It's poorly shot, badly edited. Most it was filmed in Sofia, Bulgaria, filming lasted about 12 weeks as it's always the case with these type of "direct-to-video"-looking films.

There are a few nice allusions to the games. Such as the main location and hit taking place in St. Petersburg just like one of the most iconic levels from the series. Specifically, the film appears to draw a lot from Codename 47 and Contracts. The whole hotel sequence seems directly taken from Contracts in fact. But all these little easter eggs are kinda ruined by this idiotic insert of someone playing Hitman: Blood Money in the background. It completely ruins the immersion and reminded of some stupid "game inserts" Uwe Boll does in his own video game adaptations.

The film simply takes out the entire stealth approach from the games out of the picture for a much more generic action/thriller direction. I guess Timothy Olyphant is kind of ok, but he carries very little of the film on his shoulders due to the annoying pacing, dumb plot, quick cuts jumping from one scene to the next without much reasoning. The script never allows them to tell the story. A story which was probably so simple on paper, ends up a convoluted mess on screen.

Such a perfect series seems completely lost in translation. And it could have been so easy to make, look no further than Bruce Willis' The Jackal to see how easily it could have been made into a film. Simply lift a few unique deaths from the game, and it would have made such perfect film material in a visual medium like that. Instead we have this sloppy film. Lots of cheesy green screens used here and there. And at the end of the day, a very dull lackluster film...

Geoff Zanelli's awfuly generic musical score tries its best to imitate Jesper Kydd's, without half the effort. If anything, the religious tone used here and there in a soundtrack full of Ave Marias is the film's only saving grace.

At the time of its release, the film received mostly a negative reception. But it was able to make its tiny budget back, as it's often the case with these types of lackluster flicks. It became a huge financial success (probably thanks to the use of the Hitman franchise name alone).

Overall, Hitman is a really generic cliché action film.

Our protagonist's supposed to be this cold hearted killing machine who shows very little emotion - or at least that's what the other characters keep saying - but don't expect any of that like in the game. Here, our Hitman keeps smiling and showing way too much emotion. I mean, they even gave him a cheesy love interest! And we also have this distracting Interpol detective that keeps pulling off cigarettes and never lighting those...

My main issue with the film is that this was such a simple and perfect material for a good game adaptation. But it kinda loses sight of the tone and principal aspect of the games. Yes, I know games and films are two very different mediums. Game are not really built around their narratives, even if these use that, but instead are based around problem solving. If you lose the interactivity of the game, you should try to replace it by making things interesting. But here they don't even try to adhere to the good stories of the Hitman game and instead opt for a much more streamlined narrative. They didn't even both keeping the spirit of the games...

All we are left with is a film that kind of feels like one of those Uwe Boll adaptation, only with slightly better direction. A pure "Eurotrash" product, in fact Luc Besson's company EuropaCorp was behind the film. But where films like The Transporter have kinda a fun tone with plenty of laughs to help sell out the cheesy action, our Hitman here takes itself way too seriously...

Since the film still made quite a lot of cash, there were plans for a sequel during the production. But due to the negative reception and those plans going nowhere, it would all be scrapped ultimately in favor of a movie reboot titled Hitman: Agent 47 starring Rupert Friend as Agent 47 this time, which was actually released last month.

I give it:
1 / 3 Film!

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