Monday, August 24, 2015

6 Things to Hate About HITMAN: AGENT 47

It would be a stretch to say Hitman: Agent 47 is everything wrong with Hollywood filmmaking these days. But it does certainly check off more than its fair share of the boxes on the list. The soulless result is the sort of deeply and completely uninvolving movie that barely seems to exist beyond the corporate and commercial whims that spat it up. It seems only right to enumerate my complaints in list form, if only to grasp for listicle clicks as shamelessly as the filmmakers tried to cash in on a dormant dud idea.

1. It’s a mercenary remake of 2007’s based-on-a-video-game flop Hitman, made presumably so 20th Century Fox can say the rights haven’t lapsed. The little-loved original was a grim gory shoot-‘em-up about which I remember only distaste. This new version connects to the original in merely the most general ways despite adapting the same property. You’d think we’d have one good video game movie by now, but every one (with the exception of Need for Speed, the Tomb Raiders, and the Resident Evils, which aren’t great, but have their charms) plays like a garbage attempt to get money out of a familiar property’s name.

2. It’s an effort in franchise building despite murky mythology, scattered backstory, and nonsense lore. A tedious voice over during the opening credits spells out pro forma junk about supposedly cancelled secret government super-agent programs and evil corporate overlords, but the following film remains so vague about the specifics it’s like screenwriters Skip Woods (A Good Day to Die Hard) and Michael Finch (The November Man) knew we’d seen this sort of thing before and could roll with it. So what if it’s impossible to tell who wants what or why? We’re just supposed to accept that some people with guns need to shoot at other people with guns. Got it.

3. It has a faux-expensive-looking CGI sheen over painfully anonymous glass and steel blues and whites, the better to render, I suppose. We go from Berlin to Singapore and in the process find similar warehouses and foyers, long grey hallways and vast cavernous spaces in which to careen digital danger and phony explosions. There’s never any sense for why we’re going to any particular building, just that we’re going there to blow it up or repulsively splatter its occupants against the walls.

4. It features near constant deadening action. Rounds of ammunition are expended casually and endlessly, turning every opportunity for excitement into a gross and weirdly passive shooting gallery. We often see characters turning in slow motion from high angles, spinning and firing two weapons at once with all the precision of a button-masher on easy mode. This never feels dangerous. Even car stunts and a helicopter rototilling the side of a skyscraper feel antiseptic. Watch poor Zachary Quinto scowl his way through the role of an indestructible henchman, bouncing up for more glowering after every blow, for a personification of futility.

5. It casts a co-lead as a Strong Female (Hannah Ware) who is important to the plot’s machinations, and yet is only there to be a pawn or a prop for male characters who remove her agency whenever convenient for their plans. She’s a MacGuffin. The story concerns her efforts to locate her long-lost father (CiarĂ¡n Hinds) while being alternately pursued and assisted by two guys. For all the fighting she gets to do, she’s also constantly imperiled, and has a scene in a bikini that makes no sense either practically – where did she get it? – or plot wise – why go swimming when the bad guy is still in close pursuit?

6. It’s a movie that takes its protagonist, the eponymous Agent 47 (Rupert Friend, a long way from Starred Up), and makes him the literal embodiment of bland white male default blahs. He strides through the scenery without any apparent motivation or characterization, recognizable only by his simple constant style: a gleaming bald head with a barcode tattoo, a nondescript black suit, and a blood red tie. What’s he up to?  By the time it’s clear, it’s too late to care. All we know is that he’s good at shooting people while looking and moving like he’s in a perfume commercial.

There’s as much reason to see Hitman: Agent 47 as there was to make it. Less, actually, because although the studio clearly thought they could get people to pay good money to see it, there’s no such profit motive for you. I can’t say I blame anyone involved, from first-time director Aleksander Bach, who must’ve thought a relatively big studio picture would make a cushy debut, to the craftspeople who were presumably paid good money to design this contraption. And hopefully the actors had some good catered lunches. But there's no need for anyone to actually see this empty fun-free zone. Prospective audience members should stay home and eat a sandwich instead. At least that’d have some flavor and purpose.

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