By: Kevin Jordan
And the summer popcorn season is officially over.
With the wreckage of Fantastic Four still burning brighter than Michael B. Jordan’s CGI flames and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. being ignored in favor of a biopic about three rappers, I can forgive you if you thought the summer popcorn movie season was already over. But as the kids go back to school and you remember how nice silence is, Hitman: Agent 47 is here to remind you that you haven’t mowed the lawn for more than a week. By the time August rolls around, three months of superheroes, gunshots, dinosaurs, terminators, and Adam Sandler’s annual atrocity have left your ears ringing, your eyes blurry, and your lawn a mess. The last thing you want to do is spend another two hours in a dark theater watching a movie in which the phrase “subdermal body-armor” is used more than once. Yes, you should trim the hedges while you’re at it.
Confession time – I am one of the few people who liked 2007’s Hitman. Mostly, it’s because of Timothy Olyphant, but I also thought the story was acceptable and Olga Kurylenko sure was nice to gawk at. But, it’s a classic “Movies for Me” flick – if you told me it was a stupid video game movie with a dumb, convoluted plot, my response would be “Ol-ga Kur-y-len-ko.” Going into Agent 47, I figured the best case scenario would be a Movie for Me and the worst case scenario would be Fantastic Four all over again. In other words, please let the summer popcorn season last just a smidge longer.
(Mild SPOILERS coming, though the previews spoil nearly everything if you watch them.)
For a movie entitled Hitman: Agent 47, you’d think the plot would revolve around the title character, but like Mad Max: Fury Road film, you’d be wrong (though at least Agent 47 actually gets to do some stuff, unlike Mad “I call shotgun” Max). Also like Fury Road, the main character is a woman, Katia (Hannah Ware). Katia is searching for a mysterious man (no points for guessing the man turns out to be her father), but is being hunted herself by Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) and John Smith (Zachary Quinto). After a bunch of killing and some chase scenes, we learn that Smith is working for the Syndicate, a company that also wants to find Katia’s father (Ciaran Hinds) because he is the only person that knows how to make agents (pronounced: Agents) like 47. During all of this, Agent 47 has a contract he must fulfill, which means somebody is going to die, but he also appears to be tasked with keeping the Syndicate from acquiring the Agent secret sauce.
(Note: if you are new to this franchise or the video games they came from, Agents are genetically modified assassins with heightened physical and mental abilities and no emotions. They also have bar codes burned into the back of their heads, are not allowed to grow hair, and may only wear red ties. No, I did not make up any of that.)
Like Hitman, I thought the plot of Agent 47 was adequate. What caught my attention more was that the casting consisted of two people I’d never heard of or seen, Zachary Quinto, that guy that always plays a European villain (Thomas Kretschmann), and Mance Rayder (Hinds) from Game of Thrones. No disrespect to Friend – he did a better than average job, but why wasn’t Olyphant cast again? It’s not like he’s got anything going on right now (not kidding – check out his IMDB page; it looks like he’s got some time now that Justified is done) and Hitman earned $100 million on a $25 million budget. Plus, old guy action stars are in right now, right (to be fair, Olyphant is a young 47)?
Besides the casting, there were a couple of other things that stuck in my head. The first is that Agent 47 isn’t as smart as the movie wants us to believe. A smart person would shoot the bad guy in the head after finding out said bad guy has body armor surgically implanted under his skin. However, even when Agent 47 has Smith on the ground and empties his magazine into Smith, not one bullet goes into Smith’s head. You can guess what happens next. The second thing – and one that is impossible not to raise an eyebrow at – is that Katia has Nicholas Cage’s power from Next. That’s right, she can see the future, but only the next two minutes worth (or at least the next 20 seconds or so). This convenient and unexplained superpower was used generously because why the hell not? This is an August action flick, you’ll take it and like it.
The final thing has no bearing on the film itself, but it’s possible I missed something important (like why Katia could see the future) due to a physical characteristic of Katia demanding all of my attention. Before I go on, I need to remind you that I’m a guy with functioning eyes, so you’ll forgive me for admiring a beautiful woman. There’s a scene in a hotel room where Katia is wearing a white tank top, having just come out of the shower. I don’t know if the room was just cold or they rubbed her down with a bag full of Otter Pops and pointed fans at her, but her nipples were practically bursting through her shirt. I’m really not trying to be crude here, but that’s not why I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t look away because one of her nipples appeared square. Maybe it was a trick of the light or fabric of her shirt, but if there was any dialogue during the scene, I don’t remember it. This same thing happened to me throughout Looper (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s fake Bruce Willis jaw) and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie’s absurdly pointed cheekbones). Yes, I also get distracted by shiny things and squirrels.
The hardest thing to decide about this movie is where I’m going to put it in my year-end review. I didn’t think there was enough action, but that’s probably because the lulls between action scenes were filled with enough exposition to choke Tyrion Lannister. If you think I’m exaggerating, know that the beginning of the movie is literally a narrator telling us everything we need to know about Agents rather than just showing us the Agent program (FYI – this is lazy screenwriting 101). On the other hand, the action scenes were fairly unique (two words – jet engine) and the three main actors delivered sufficiently believable performances. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as the first Hitman, but it might just be entertaining enough to be a Movie for Me. Of course, maybe I’m just saying that because I’ve got a pretty big lawn threatening to swallow my child.
Rating: Ask for half of your money back and, please, someone find out what’s happened to Olyphant.