Movie Review: 'Hitman: Agent 47' falls short as video game adaptation

"Hitman: Agent 47" was released on August 21, and has turned in $15.3 million at the box office thus far. (20th Century Fox)

If video game-based movies have a reputation for being bad, then movie-based video games have a reputation for being atrocious. I went in to “Hitman: Agent 47” with tempered expectations, but found a film that, while not true to the source material, is still an entertaining action movie.

The “Hitman” games, which the movie is based on, are known for being about stealth, creative assassinations and missions in interesting locations. While the movie sort of fulfills the latter two criteria, I cannot recall any of Agent 47’s kills that did not involve an action scene or being detected immediately afterwards. 

The setup is this: an organization called “Syndicate International” is looking to restart a defunct Cold War-era cloning and brainwashing operation. To do that, they need to find the original mastermind behind the project, Dr. Litvenko. The only way to do that is to find his daughter, Katia, who is searching for her father after he abandoned her at a young age. Agent 47 is tasked with assassinating Litvenko to prevent anyone from restarting the project and teams up with Katia in order to find him. 

If you are a fan of the games, then this movie might irritate you with the amount of creative license taken with the character of Agent 47. The Agent 47 we know from the video games is calculating, discrete and frequently eliminates targets without leaving any evidence he was even there. In “Hitman: Agent 47,” however, he detonates bombs on public streets, starts a gunfight in a crowded train station and kills a man by connecting him to the Singapore power grid. 

For another example, Agent 47’s handler, Diana, is both extremely loyal to 47 and is a redhead in the games. In the movie, however, she’s written as an Asian woman who is inexplicably ready to betray 47 at the drop of a hat. The only things the filmmakers got right about the character of 47 seem to be his trademark suit, the fact that he’s bald and that he uses a pair of silverballer pistols.  
If we judge the movie solely by its own merits, things start out pretty rocky. This movie rips off no less than four films by my count, including “Terminator,” “Saw,” “Fast and Furious” and the Jason Bourne movies. Anyone who has seen the original “Terminator” will recognize the similarities between the iconic assault on the police station and 47’s assault on the U.S. Embassy in Germany.

In another scene, 47 channels his inner Jigsaw Killer and forces a victim he has tied to a chair to escape or be torn to pieces by a jet engine. These are just some of the more egregious examples of the film’s writers blatantly taking material from other, better known films.

Rupert Friend plays Agent 47, and does a decent job bringing across his cold, ruthless tone. While the action scenes are out of character, scenes between Katia, played by Hannah Ware, and 47 can be genuinely interesting. Agent 47 does not and will never need an origin story, but the dialogue between Katia and 47 can be more interesting than the generic action scenes would indicate. 

But even with all these flaws, I still enjoyed “Hitman: Agent 47.” The last third of the film is the best, because the writers stop ripping off other movies and make some entertaining fight scenes. A soundtrack that is also improved from the first two thirds of the film punctuates shootouts with henchmen. The ending is blatant sequel bait, but I understand if the writers want to make sure they are still employed in a month.

As a movie adaptation of the “Hitman” games, “Hitman: Agent 47” is very disappointing. As an action movie, however, there is enough here to keep your attention and keep you entertained for the ninety six minute run time. Finally, as a video game movie, it stands head and shoulders about the likes of “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” or any of the “Resident Evil” movies. 

Score: 6.5/10