‘Hitman: Agent 47’ (2015) review: A contract not worth taking

‘Hitman’ visually slick, but lacks substance — much like its ‘protagonist’

It’s a rare video game film that even manages to be mediocre. To be honest, the only one that comes to mind is the first “Tomb Raider” film starring Angelina Jolie, and even that was more schlock than gem.

So I went into “Hitman: Agent 47” with what I would considered reasonable trepidation. It’s not as if I’m some “Hitman” superfan (I’ve never even played a “Hitman” game), but I just wasn’t expecting much from a story about a perfect assassin lacking emotions and morals (hey, I’ve seen “Max Payne”) except maybe some vicious kill scenes.

I wasn’t disappointed. And by that, I mean I got exactly what I thought I would: a lackluster film with its only saving grace being its stylish assassinations. Those bodies hit the floor with some bloody pizzazz. It’s just a shame everything else hit the floor with a thud.

Unlike the 2007 take on the IO Interactive franchise, “Hitman: Agent 47” doesn’t even revolve around the legendary video game assassin, a man known for his prowess with weapons and traps and an ability to fulfill any contract he accepts. Instead, we follow a woman on the run, seemingly being tracked by the most powerful people in the world: a sinister corporation and a hitman capable of getting you to kill yourself.

But before we get to that nonsense, we have to deal with the always-portending sign of a far-too-long opening narration scene, detailing the long-running history of the “Agent” program in about five minutes. For those who don’t know: The government (because it’s always the government) created a secret program that bred perfect assassins, devoid of any of those pesky emotions or moral hang-ups that might stop another human from shooting someone in the face. Of course, the program was shut down.

That pause in human manipulation, however, doesn’t last long, as Syndicate International attempts to restart the dormant program to create its own supersoldiers. Enter Agent 47 (Rupert Friend), who’s seeking aforementioned woman on the run, Katia (Hannah Ware), in an effort to find her father, Petr Litvenko (Ciarán Hinds), the geneticist behind the original Agent program.

Oh, and Zachary Quinto is running around for some reason, basically being a intense-eyed nuisance. (Just wait until you learn about his involvement in all this nonsense.)

The goal: Agent 47, the sharply dressed super-assassin, is out to prevent the reactivation of the “Agent” program. Which, as is expected in the action video game-made-film genre, leads to fantastic mayhem across the globe. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s visually competent and a nice break from the lackluster dialogue.

In the end, “Hitman: Agent 47,” directed by Aleksander Bach, attempts to fulfill a nearly impossible contract: to adhere close enough to the video game material to not alienate longtime fans while broadening the film’s appeal to attract those who’ve never heard of the game. On both counts, the film fails. It lacks any appreciable plot while failing to explain why we should care about this “hero.” Pretty locales and a stylish visualization can’t help make up for a film that feels as contractual as the one driving the hitman. Let’s just shy no one is getting a performance bonus this time around.

Two “Am I watching ‘Wanted’ right now?!” stars out of five.

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