Hitman Agent 47 review: dud money

Hitman: Agent 47 had potential. The movie adaptation of the beloved game series about a skilled, superhuman assassin who goes by '47' (Rupert Friend) features a cool gender subversion of the typical "chosen one" plotline, good actors and high-energy action. It's too bad the abysmal writing leaves all of that in the cold.

Hitman tells the dual stories of 47 and Katia (Hannah Ware), a young woman with memory problems and supernatural survival instincts. Katia has the image of a man in her head — she doesn't know who he is, but she secretly travels around Europe, bugging archivists and librarians and piecing together clues bit by bit about him.

The audience and the shadowy syndicate corporation, however, know exactly who he is — a genius geneticist who invented the Agent program, which made superhuman soldiers like 47. Katia, being the last known connection to him, is eagerly sought by both the syndicate — represented by a suave super agent named John (Zachary Quinto) and 47.

The first half of the film plays out like a generic spy thriller with a slathering of ultra violent action. Then, there's a rather clever twist. I won't spoil it (although the trailers already pretty much have), but that one shining moment of surprise is easily the highest point in Hitman: Agent 47.


It's all downhill from there, however, as the bottom-heavy film doubles down on exposition and unearned emotional turmoil. The dialogue in the film is so stale that many audience members were actively laughing by the final third, where seemingly every action movie cliché — family woes! Hand-wringing moralizing from mass-murderers! A bad guy who says "we aren't so different!" — get trotted out before the big finale.

Even the action grows tired by the end of the film, since the stakes never feel appropriately high. Sure, there are tons of bullets flying and heads falling and necks snapping, but this is just a day in the life of a superhuman assassin.

It's a shame, because Hitman: Agent 47 really didn't need to turn out this way. In the right hands, the Hitman property could make great fodder for an action movie or a spy thriller. 47 is just a charicature in the games, an empty vessel just waiting to be filled with good genre writing. Katia's character is ripe for exploration — she has a real journey and emotional arc. And frankly, the caliber of acting talent on display is more than up to the task — Zachary Quinto is playing a slippery super agent! This could've — and should've — been fun!

Hitman: Agent 47 has some of the worst writing in a video game movie since Uwe Boll

But alas, bad writing will ruin a movie faster than 47 can kill a room full of guards, and Hitman: Agent 47 has some of the worst writing in a video game movie since Uwe Boll's glory days. Sometimes it's generic — like most of what 47 actually says. The wry "I always close my contracts," sort of line, spoken like a 15-year-old's vision of a badass. But more often, it's cliché-ridden or downright bad. In one scene, the greedy head of syndicate is torturing another character, giving the villain line "we're not so different, you and me," without even the slightest wink at the camera in acknowledgement.

Not that a wink would've saved this scene, but perhaps a touch of playfulness could've helped Agent 47's overall tone. It mixes wannabe hard-boiled dialogue and impossibly over-the-top action, making it difficult to actually take seriously as a result.

The finished movie feels like something an angry teenaged boy would make if he had a budget and access to talent. Agent 47, and, for that matter, Katia — deserved better.