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Hitman: Agent 47 | Review

Hanna and Her Sisters: The Art of the Persistently Insipid Video Game Reboot

Hitman: Agent 47 PosterA tip of the hat to 20th Century Fox as they valiantly try to re-launch their failed video-game based franchise with a new chapter of risible artifice, Hitman: Agent 47, which follows the 2007 film Hitman. Recapitulated for a ‘new generation,’ or so it constantly confirms for us, perhaps it would have been beneficial to hire someone other than returning screenwriter Skip Woods for the treatment (who went on to pen franchise material like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The A-Team, and A Good Day to Die Hard). Staunchly uninterested in providing even one moment of logical comprehension or stage anything resembling an original concept, this derivative slog of action sequences and B-movie tropes tiredly goes through the motions of narrative filmmaking but never quite reveals what the point seems to be.

Jumping immediately into a curdled stew of conventional Cold War espionage, Katia’s (Hannah Ware) vaguely Euro-accent laden omniscient narration informs us of the 1967 secret weapons design developing highly advanced assassins, coined the ‘Agent Program.’ Seeing as the agents designed in the program were ultimately being used for insidious purposes, the creator, Litvenko (Ciaran Hinds) disappeared. This left scattered plans and miscellaneous knowledge cobbled together to keep the program as it was known running—but Litvenko took his advanced, superior knowledge with him. Now, the nefarious Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann), who runs the Syndicate International organization out of Berlin, desires to reactivate the program, necessitating Litvenko be found. Meanwhile, infamous Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) has been assigned to track the scientist’s daughter, Katia (Hannah Ware), a woman confused about her lineage and currently taking prescription meds to dull the acute survival instincts her father implanted in her genes. But a ruthless Syndicate agent, John Smith (Zachary Quinto) has gotten to Katia first, trying to manipulate her into revealing daddy’s whereabouts.

If this sounds desperately familiar, it’s because this is virtually the same outline as Guy Ritchie’s reboot of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a Cold War set espionage tale where two handsome dudes work with and against a beautiful but physically capable foreign woman who’s targeted by various organizations so she can lead them to her brilliant father and his technological secrets.

Stepping into Timothy Olyphant’s shoes is British star Rupert Friend, now looking perturbingly similar as Orlando Bloom. Friend probably escapes a bit of the stiltedness since he’s supposed to be playing a character with one emotional register, but others are pretty laughable. Quinto appears to be out of place, spitting out his villainous discourse with disparaging vehemence unmatched by the quality of this very basic, very simple dialogue.

Sadly, this is not much of a calling card for British beauty Hannah Ware, an actress seen in bit parts in Spike Lee’s Oldboy and Steve McQueen’s Shame. We’re constantly reminded of her extra sensory perception, her unparalleled intelligent, and unmatched capacity for ass-kicking aptitude thanks to her father’s meddling. However, she isn’t afforded any real-life skills, as say the highly functioning teen assassin in Joe Wright’s Hanna. Instead, the film consistently handicaps her in favor of showcasing a mind numbing onslaught of explosions and shoot-out sequences favoring Friend’s marksmanship or Quinto’s too silly to bitch about extra thermal bullet proof skin or whatever. Sure, she shoots people effectively and even has to escape the threat of being sucked into the vortex of a fan we’d see at a Beyoncé concert, but these moments all seem so patronizing. Mostly she’s written as some vapid manmade fantasy female—just saying a character is intelligent doesn’t make us overlook stupid things. Like when Quinto’s character says his name is John Smith, and then after a barrage of dodged bullets she asks, “Is your name really John Smith?” Or begging a librarian to look through millions of records to find information on a man she only has a blurry photo of only to add she actually has no idea who that man could possibly be. Or cleaning her colleague’s magical guns as he sleeps so they aren’t available when their hotel room is raided and he needs them. It’s the kind of demeaning, unimaginative portrait that’s been plaguing these derivate species of films for decades, the kind that usually are nadir as concerns future film offers for actresses—these were the types of roles being thrown at Rhona Mitra a decade ago.

An eventual face-off between the asthmatic scientist played by Ciaran Hinds (one can’t quite blame him for the unimaginative portrayal) and the Nazi knock-off Syndicate head played by an equally unmemorable Thomas Kretschmann (operating his business out of building whose interior copied the design of the Guggenheim) unravels as predictably as you assume it will. A variety of running around from things and dodging bullets and stuff happens, too. Serving as the directorial debut of Aleksander Bach, there’s not much to observe other than hopefully this isn’t indicative of what to expect in the future.

★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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