Hitman (2007)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 11/21/07
Director: Xavier Gens
Executive Producer: Vin Diesel
Stunt Coordinator: Cyril Rafaelli
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko

This video game adaptation stands pretty well on its own as an adolescent fantasy wish fulfillment film with a healthy helping of action and violence. Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is the top hitman for a super secret high level organization. Not surprisingly, his latest client double-crosses him and puts out a contract for his life. This really pisses him off and he seeks revenge while trying to stay alive. In the midst of this is thrown a pretty girl named Nika (Olga Kurylenko) who reluctantly teams up with Agent 47 to take down their mutual enemy. Against all odds he manages to live to kill another day.

Pretty much every movie I've seen for the last few months reminds me of how horrible "Transformers" (2007) was and makes me hate it even more. But that's a complete tangent.

Back to the topic at hand, "Hitman" does a lot of things right and is an enjoyable action film. Unfortunately, the weakest link is Timothy Olyphant's performance as the lead character. He looks uncomfortable and unconvincing in the role, and lacks a strong presence. Perhaps he looks too young and pretty, and not rugged enough? Even though he's a cold-blooded killer, his emotionless delivery is just a little too lifeless and flat. There needs to be something more - a sadness behind the eyes, burning hatred, tense anger, any kind of silent or subtle emotional nuance. But I suppose that's not what the character is about. Dialog-wise he has very little to say, but he should have had even less. The strongest performance comes from the beautiful Olga Kurylenko, who seems to be the only one in the film who can act. She devours every frame that she's in and her eyes are mesmerizing.

The story certainly isn't very original and the film borrows liberally from the book of action film clichés. However, the narrative is smooth and subtle, and I was pleased that it didn't overstate everything like so many other films do. The film looks nice, but is often annoyingly out of focus. The visual effects are competent and the bullet hits are nice and juicy. The fight choreography is surprisingly good for an American production, thanks to stuntman Cyril Raffaelli ("Banlieue 13" (2004) ). Unfortunately, the final fight is a complete mess of fast edits, jerky handheld camerawork, and super-fast shutter speeds. There is also a very odd shot in the film where it looks like Olyphant's head is superimposed on Vin Diesel's body, which is very disconcerting. Overall, despite Olyphant's flat delivery, Agent 47 is an easy character to admire and identify with, and the film offers up enough thrills to make the journey worthwhile.