- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © 20th Century Fox
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ou can’t say that you didn’t see it coming – “Hitman” sucking, that is. The latest video game to be adapted for the big screen experienced more than its share of on-set controversy throughout production, and it certainly shows. First, executive producer Vin Diesel dropped out of the lead role, only to be replaced by an actor (Timothy Olyphant) who, despite his moderately successful track record, was anything but right for the character. Then, rumors of director Xavier Gens’ firing began circulating at exactly the same time that rumors of the film being cut to a PG-13 rating set online forums ablaze. Only one of those rumors ended up being true, but you wouldn’t know it from the final product. “Hitman” isn’t just laughably bad – it manages to botch one of the easiest film genres to get right: the guilty pleasure.
Loosely based on the action series of the same name, Olyphant stars as Agent 47, a professional assassin working for a secret organization known only as – get this – The Organization. Plucked away as a child and crafted into a cold-blooded killer, 47’s only identity is the barcode tattoo on the back of his head. When his latest assignment to take down Russia’s new president backfires on him, however, 47 finds himself in the middle of a political takeover. On the run from a pair of Interpol agents (Dougray Scott and Michael Offei) and the Russian secret police, 47 teams up with a Russian prostitute (Olga Kurylenko) to finish the job he was hired to do.
If there’s just one rule of thumb that moviegoers should live by, it’s this: anything starring Dougray Scott is usually a sign of a big turd. It’s almost as if the guy radiates failure, because while Olyphant has proven time and again that he’s a capable leading man (most notably on the short-lived HBO series “Deadwood”), he does little to embrace the role of Agent 47. In fact, he plays the silent killer a little too seriously, and one almost wishes that B-movie director extraordinaire Uwe Boll was around to help liven things up. It’s hardly his fault, though. Olyphant was never right for the role – shaved head or not – and while the film probably wouldn’t have been any less terrible with a different actor as the lead, it still would have shown fans of the game the respect that they deserve.
There’s no better way to describe “Hitman” than as an “xXx” knock-off. The similarities are actually quite uncanny (a bald-headed hero, a Euro trash sidekick, a Russian locale, etc.), but it’s never quite as fun as it should be. The acting is downright awful, the action is relatively stale, and the story leaves so many subplots wide open that you’d need a concrete mixer truck just to fill in all of the holes. Simply put, the film is an absolute mess, and while Gens could have easily righted many of the wrongs with some over-the-top violence a la "Shoot 'Em Up," he fails to make good use of his R-rating. “Hitman” could have been one of the year’s best guilty pleasures, but instead, the studio should feel guilty just for releasing it.
Unrated Edition DVD Review:
The single-disc release of “Hitman” features some of the strangest bonus features I’ve ever seen on an action flick, including a five-minute gag reel and a behind-the-scenes look at scoring the film (“Settling the Score”). Of course, all of the usual extras can be found as well – including deleted scenes and a making-of featurette (“In the Crosshairs”), as well as an unrated cut of the film – but there isn’t a single mention as to how they choreographed any of the action sequences. Surely someone over at Fox has a wicked sense of humor, because there simply isn’t a better explanation as to why there’s a gag reel, but no stunt featurette included.