French director Xavier Gens has stayed fairly close to his source material which means it’s heavy on style, but low on substance following the adventures of the nameless Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant), the world’s greatest assassin. Agent 47 has been trained from birth for one single-minded purpose, to kill people, but doesn’t really know how to do anything else, and has begun to question what he really wants out of life. As a robotic killing machine, Olyphant and his extremely flat delivery are peculiarly well suited to portraying Agent 47. Yes, he’s kind of dull whenever he opens his mouth to talk, but this time he’s supposed to be that way. It only really falls apart when the filmmakers try to humanize 47 after he rescues battered prostitute Nika (an equally wooden Olga Kurylenko) from an overly complicated political conspiracy. The only thing worse than their attempts at humor are their attempts at flirtation. It’s not so much bad as horribly, horribly dull.
Mercifully, and I don’t say this often, neither Gens nor screenwriter Skip Woods (“Swordfish”) are particularly interested in character development (every other character in the film is merely a device for exposition), and seeing as how neither of them seem particularly good at it, that’s probably for the best. They’ve decided instead to go for the bullets, blood, and breasts school of entertainment.
Gens is a decent visual stylist and “Hitman” has a slick feel to it, lifting inspiration from a number of sources, including the game itself and the “Bourne” series. The action sequences are mostly well done, except when they devolve into hand-to-hand, when they suddenly and inexplicable become leaden and clumsy. Logic is also not a particular friend of the film, but considering how preposterous the premise is, that’s not an out and out deal breaker.
Fans of the games should get some enjoyment out of “Hitman,” it’s about as faithful a game adaptation as I’ve seen, but it’s a toss-up for everyone else. “Hitman” doesn’t have a lot to offer, but if you go in not expecting too much you should get along fine.