Hitman: Agent 47

Posted by August 23, 2015

"Hitman: Agent 47" is one enormous scene of exposition after another, to the point of sheer madness. Take the opening twenty minutes, during which I (who pride myself on my ability to know, at least pretty well, what I'm watching) had little or no idea what was happening to whom and for what. It begins with a bit of narrated explanation that might as well have gone in one ear and out the other one, before shoving us unceremoniously into its plot. Then it turns the tables on its central narrative hook in ways that make little sense in context. Then it all builds up to a helicopter flying into a building and half-hearted fisticuffs and shootouts, which makes it pretty telling that things like intelligence and logic weren't at the top of screenwriters Skip Woods and Michael Finch's list of priorities (and debuting director Aleksander Bach doesn't help matters by framing and staging the action sequences to be flurries of random movement without tension or geography).

From what I gather, the plot (taken or borrowed or something from a video game series of which I am only vaguely aware) regards a series of operative agents made in a laboratory and built without the capability to process emotion. Now let us pause for a moment to regard the internal logic in this movie when it comes to these agents. Sure, we only really see one of them in action here (or we see three, but I'm still unsure about this point), but it begs the question: How much was this process thought through thoroughly? The one agent we see here definitely reacts to certain bits of news or to things that irritate or exasperate him or to the need for the neural dump of refuse from the emotional centers of the brain (something known widely as "sleep," which he shouldn't need). Why is that? How does he make choices based on reasoning that originates from the emotional need for morality in a heightened situation? These things shouldn't be possible within the agents, and the movie doesn't seem to understand that.

It's an important point, too, because Woods and Finch eventually try to convince us that agent 47 (Rupert Friend) is a "good" guy, but this is after the movie establishes the lack of emotion that the character should have. Morality, such as that which is connoted in "good" or "bad" people, requires emotional intelligence; the agents don't just lack emotional intelligence but lack the ability to grasp the phrase. Why is 47 now good? Why did this intended revelation come after a first half-hour of the agent being a ruthless, calculated machine? Why does Friend play the role as if emotion is always right on the edge of his consideration--but, wait, I'm repeating myself here. None of this adds up; it's as if the movie equates emotion with outbursts, and the agent is certainly pretty straight-faced, even in absurd motion.

The plot is meaningless white noise, but 47 has been sent to assassinate a woman named Katia (Hannah Ware in an embarrassing performance), who is the daughter of the scientist (Ciaran Hinds, who deserves better than this) who created the program. A mysterious official named Le Clerq (Thomas Kretschmann, looking remarkably disinterested) has sent one of his own operatives named-but-obviously-not-really-named John Smith (Zachary Quinto, whose character's arc is as obvious as it is tired) to protect her. But then the shift happens and...ugh, you know what, you've probably figured all of this out by now. "Hitman: Agent 47" is that kind of movie, although let's be thankful it's more useless than something to despise.

Film Information

Rupert Friend (Agent 47), Hannah Ware (Katia), Zachary Quinto (John Smith), Ciaran Hinds (Litvenko), Thomas Kretschmann (Le Clerq), Angelababy (Diana), Dan Bakkedahl (Sanders), Emilio Rivera (Fabian), Rolf Kanies (Dr. Delriego), Jerry Hoffmann (Franco).

Directed by Aleksander Bach and written by Skip Woods and Michael Finch.

Rated R (violence, language).

96 minutes.

Released on August 23, 2015.