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Bald, soft-lit children await their tattoos while wistful cantatas from a dark high holy mass play. Really, it works in a video game, and a video for that matter. Hitman director Xavier Gens clearly knows how to put a visual together. As we've seen time after time, however, without a decent script, that means nothing.

Almost all that baroque imagery falls by the wayside, focusing instead on a vague cat and mouse and maybe a badger game among Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant), his organization (a lot of other bald guys with UPC codes on the back of their heads) and the Interpol detective (Dougray Scott) chasing them. 47 tells the story in flashback, which allows Gens to do some nice flashback effects. He has to, because the exposition in Skip Woods' script is so dull I started wishing I was watching Dancing with the Stars.

Other than 47 being betrayed by his own agency over some sort of Russian coup, the plot has no real throughline. Like the worst in videogame plotting (and the Eidos videogames are probably better), all of it serves only as an excuse for mayhem. Though at least the script takes time out to introduce a Russian prostitute with a heart of gold, Nika (Olga Kurylenko).

Taking 47's disdain for women from the games (inferred from Wikipedia - thanks, Wikiality), Woods turns it into an actual inability to handle sexual attraction. Granted, this provides for a couple of comical moments as 47 would rather incapacitate Nika with a hypodermic than make love to her, despite obvious affection. But such actual character moments glimmer few and far between.

Instead, you have to focus on the action, and Gens does a great job with that. The fight scenes utilize environment really well, and pick up such speed that it's easy to forget that you have no idea who 47 is fighting and why. They could be Russians, they could be assassins, they could be Agents of Hydra (that would have been so cool).

As 47, Olyphant does what he can. He has a scared puppy look in his eyes that can turn to steel in a heartbeat, and luckily, that's all the script needs him to do. From other performances, it's fair to say Olyphant has talent, but the other drawback to an image oriented director is that the takes printed vary in quality; Gens just doesn't have the eye or ear for a good performance.

Thus the usually at least decent Scott comes off as completely wretched. Kurylenko at least has the advantage of being a model - we don't expect her to be any good, but oh, are our eyes going into insulin shock.

So…um…what was Hitman about? Things blew up, people got shot, there was some fighting and yeah, the Russians are bad but not in the way we think. I think.

It's a mess, but at least it got me interested in picking up the videogames.


Derek McCaw

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