Friday, November 30, 2007

HITMAN - now, if you were a super-smart assassin would you really walk around with a conspicuous bar-code tatooed to your skull?

If you don't stop talking, I'm going to put you back in the trunk.HITMAN is a surprisingly good action movie despite its genesis as a video game and the imbecility of the bar-code in the back of the head. Not that I have anything against video games: I've spent many a happy weekend kicking seven shades of crap out of the Parthians with my cataphract cavalry. However, in my experience it's much more fun to blow shit up yourself than to outsource the blowing up of shit. Added to that, a lot of VG adaptations make zero attempt to super-impose silly little things like...well...plot or character development onto the stylised violence of the source material.

In this respect, HITMAN is miles ahead of any other VG adaptation, though still a goodly mile behind the best of the spy/assassin genre. For a start, the violence is not as stylised and unrealistic as you sometimes get, and it's actually surprisingly discreet. Oftentimes the camera cuts away from the worst of it. Second, the production design is full of care, attention, atmosphere and, presumably, cold hard cash. Our protagonist, Agent 47, guns down a Russian premier in St Petersburg, before heading to Istanbul. All the while he stays in lush hotels and drives swankier cars than, say, James Blonde. A particular marvel is the creation of the FSB headquarters, which is all diffused light in baroque corridors.

But the biggest win is the script by Skip Woods, who also wrote the super-stylish SWORDFISH (one of the coolest opening scenes in cinema.) His Agent 47, portrayed by Timothy Olyphant, has a dry wit and a moral centre. But he never betrays his psycho upbringing in a sort of Catholic boarding school cum assassin training camp. I love the fact that the film-makers resist the temptation to have a teen fantasy sex-scene between Agent 47 and his Russian damsel in distress (Olga Kurylenko). I also invested in the relationship between Agent 47 and his nemesis, Brit copper Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott), as well as buddy cop relationship between Whittier and his side-kick, Jenkins (Michael Offei.)

Don't get me wrong. HITMAN is no work of genius. Any movie that has to tell viewers that London is in England or that Istanbul is in Turkey is playing to a low common denominator. And don't even get me started on the fictitious Russo-Turkish border! But I have to say that I had a good time watching this flick, and when they make the inevitable sequel, I'll anticipate it with more eagerness that I did its predecessor.

HITMAN is on release in Canada, Egypt, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, the US, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Lebanon, Indonesia, Taiwan, Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Turkey and the UK. It opens next Friday in Australia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Rumania and on December 13th in Bolivia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Brazil, Finland, Sweden and Chile. It opens on December 26th in France; on January 24th in Argentina and in Japan on April 5th 2008.

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