Based on the eponymous video game, I had high hopes for Hitman. This is the season of the ponderous Oscar bait, but just because it’s fall doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a good popcorn movie. However, it’s a bad omen for a movie when the opening scenes seem to feature stock footage from the long-canceled television show, Dark Angel.

The back story, such as it is, revolves around a group known as “The Organization”, so secret that no one knows it exists (except just about everyone in this movie). They train killers and have contacts with every government. Why? Okay, essentially this is a “just cause” movie: stuff happens … just cause. Anyway, our hero, professional assassin (of course he’s the best there is) Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) kills his target except that his target gives a press conference later that same day. He’s pursued by an earnest Inspector of Interpol, Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) and rescues a prostitute who he needs for some reason, Nika Boronina (Olga Kurylenko). Then there’s a whole lot of other stuff thrown in to make us think we’re watching a coherent production.

I guess I should have just boiled down the plot summary like this: Lots of largely unnecessary exposition to give the illusion of an actual story line punctuated by a brief action sequence to make sure you’re still paying attention. Repeat for an hour and a half.

Not enough intrigue in the movie. A sprawling cast of players does not equal intrigue. It actually only means there is a confusing storyline (confusing, as opposed to complex). No one has anything approaching a motivation other than the inspector. There’s not even an exploration of the mythology of the Organization. “Just cause” carries the day. Thanks to the murky photography and pedestrian direction (featuring a lot of back-of-the-head shots to evoke the video game experience), the lulls between action scenes lacked suspense and bogged the movie down further. A guy taking a bullet does not equal action. And just because the filmmakers know their demographic is mostly young men, one can’t simply throw in a young woman—whose outfits are so short they make Ally McBeal blush—who has no chemistry with the lead. Even for the sake of gratuitous nudity, because random nakedness does not equal sexy.

My biggest gripe with Hitman was the ho-hum factor . That’s not a sly reference to Nika, but rather just how boring this action movie was. Keep in mind, earlier this summer featured The Bourne Ultimatum, so we’ve seen this schtick done before and better. Action movies need to have a certain over-the-top quality to them. A sheer ridiculous, defy-the-laws-of-physics factor that causes guys to shout out loud or high five each other from their seats or otherwise be so intense guys are rooted to the screen. The movie gives us one, ONE!, such moment with the squaring off of four hitmen in a sword duel.

“Are you a good man? … How does a good man decide when to kill?” –Agent 47

Like all of us, since we’re all heroes in our own story, Agent 47 sees himself as essentially a good man. What makes him good? We’re not really sure. He shows compassion to an innocent woman caught up in a situation she had little to do with. He never has sex with said victim. He was moved to show mercy on the inspector who had been trailing him. It’s not like he actually killed anybody, well, anybody who didn’t deserve it, well, anyone for whom the check didn’t clear. Agent 47 is trapped in the circumstances of his own choices and doesn’t even realize the prison he’s in. The most he strives for is escape from the immediate threat to his freedom, deciding to focus on the tree rather than the forest.

“Knowing how this ends, was it worth it?” –Inspector Whittier

Hitman
raises mediocrity to hopeful box office heights, so the answer to that question is no. I give it two naps up, however, because that was the amount of times I was nudged awake during it.

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