By Drew Parton
This week I watched the underrated videogame movie HITMAN starring the non-pachyderm Timothy Olyphant. Now, videogame movies are usually terrible (See: Resident Evil review) but I actually really enjoyed the film.
Timothy Olyphant (of Justified and Deadwood fame) stars as agent 47. An elite assassin belonging to the mysterious organization known simply as… well, The Organization. 47 is hired to kill the Russian President (NOT Putin, though I’d love to see that) and succeeds with his usual finesse and expertise. But suddenly, the president appears alive and well. Now, 47 is on the run from both the Organization and the INTERPOL agents investigating him while trying to finish the job and unravel a huge conspiracy.
The film didn’t do that well financially or critically, but I agree with what Roger Ebert said about it:
“Hitman stands right on the threshold between video games and art. On the wrong side of the threshold, but still, give it credit”
The film is a little light on the Character arcs. There are really only two, the hitman himself and the INTERPOL agent investigating him. The movie begins in media res in his house, where 47 has sneaked in during the middle of the night.
47 ambushes Agent Whittier of INTERPOL just to have a little chat:
“I’m going to ask you a question. How you answer it will determine how this night ends. How does a good man decide when to kill?”
This sets the whole film in motion as it flashes back to first a hit in Africa and then the main arc of the story in Russia.
Whittier then becomes more and more aware of the secret Russian coup set up by a body double of the President and begins to side against the Russians, but unlike other movies where this trope is played out (such as V for Vendetta), Whittier doesn’t side with 47. Up until the credits role he is still dead set after him. And oddly enough, it works really well for 47 not to have much of an arc.
Agent 47 is unlike many assassins in movies. He’s not smooth or charismatic, he doesn’t really develop feelings for the woman who winds up following him throughout the whole movie. He ends up protecting her and becoming more of a relatable character, but there’s no defrosting so to speak. He pretty much stays the cold calculating killer that he is. Willing to kill women and children if he needs to.
This is established early on in a scene where 47 is drinking scotch at a hotel bar and an attractive young woman begins to hit on him. She is simply met with a blank stare before 47 turns around and leaves without a word. It’s not that Olyphant plays him as flat and boring. While he speaks mainly in a monotone voice, there is this quiet, subdued intensity to him. It’s actually refreshing to see an assassin who doesn’t have a heart of gold.
Now then, the action. Hitman has some of the coolest fight scenes I have seen in a long time. There’s a long gun/sword/fist/belt fight scene between 4 different assassins (3 sent to kill Agent 47) that starts with an intense Mexican standoff and proceeds to a fast-paced sword fight showing that even amongst an organization of master assassins, 47 is just so goddamned amazingly badass. Olyphant’s calm and cool demeanor as he shoots up rooms full of mooks is something almost like art, a beautiful ballet of dancing.
Olyphant straight-faced lectures a gun smuggler on proper gun safety whilst staring down the loaded barrel of a Makarov- not even flinching when he gets shot at with it (it misses) before completely blowing the entire room full of thugs to hell.
“This is not a Kadr. It’s a Chinese copy. In fact, I don’t know if it’s the drugs, or if you’re usually this inept, but you’ve been wrong about most of these weapons. If the gun you’re holding is as cheap as this one, even if you did manage to shoot her in the eye, and I’m not saying you could, you wouldn’t kill her. “
Some of 47’s coolest moments are not only killing entire teams of FSB but where you see him as the master planner- constantly multiple moves ahead of everyone else. Midway through the movie he seems to have an irrelevant meeting with an older gentleman whom he gives an envelope to. It’s only 45 minutes later during the climax of the film that we find out he’s a CIA agent who ferries 47 out of a church besieged by Russian Special forces and INTERPOL agents.
All in all, I enjoyed the movie. It’s fun, fast-paced, and explosive- a thrill-ride with some fucking amazing fight scenes. I’d recommend checking it out if you have the time.
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Poster Credit: Dimension Films