Hitman: Agent 47 shouldn’t be as good as it is. As yet another entry in the cursed video-game adaption genre, and the reboot to a poorly-received 2007 entry, just called Hitman, the odds really were against this one. And while many critics didn’t like it, and it far from stormed the box office, it’s a surprisingly good time.
Agent 47 doesn’t try to be anything other than a balls-to-the-wall, switch-your-brain-off action rollercoaster, and broadly speaking, it succeeds in doing this. Rupert Friend (The Death of Stalin) fills the shoes of Agent 47 well, and while the inherent blankness of the character means he’s not given a chance to portray any feasible range, writer Skip Woods gives 47 a very slight and unsubtle arc that means he isn’t quite a blank slate – but isn’t far from it. Ciarán Hinds shines during his brief screen time as the terminally-ill mastermind behind the Agent program, who becomes the MacGuffin that the mysterious Syndicate, headed by Zachary Quinto’s John Smith, vie for. Yeah, it’s that kind of film.
Yet the script definitely lets down Hannah Ware’s character Katia, who functions as the way-in for audiences but whose personality is frustratingly underdeveloped, making her a particularly hard character to root for. Ware’s performance itself is weak, often chewing over some awfully-written lines, and it becomes clear that in this high-tempo film – only a brisk 90 minutes – the writers (Woods and Michael Finch) simply don’t know what to do with her.
Let’s be honest, though, not many people are coming into a Hitman movie for its plot or characters. A game series famed for its array of diverse and violent stages within which to kill targets, Agent 47 nails this element, providing a lush backdrop of locations, with a very light peppering of plot to string together the surprisingly good action scenes. The CGI is as iffy as you’d expect from a $35m budget, but the bloody gunplay is visually gripping and easily the film’s strongest feature. As a reviewer who often dislikes contemporary bland action flicks (Angel has Fallen currently sits second-to-last on my ranking of 2019 releases), it was refreshing to see action that is entertaining, visceral and loyal to the source material, that doesn’t get dull by the end.
As far as video-game adaptions go, you could do a lot worse than Agent 47. As a fan of the Hitman games, this film feels as close as you could get to translating them to the screen, with shady organisations, a near-mute protagonist and great action, but a very weak story. It doesn’t take the Assassin’s Creed approach of attempting too much plot-wise and finding itself bogged down by bad exposition and bloated lore, but instead hones in on the action, with the plot simply an excuse for more bullets to fly. Sure, the script is hammy, there’s far too many plot twists for its own good, and the performances are often lacklustre, but for switch-your-brain-off action and video-game based thrills, Hitman: Agent 47 isn’t a bad choice.