Reviewed by: Ben Sillis

I'm not going to launch into an overview of computer game movie adaptations and give you all that spiel. Let's face it, if you've bothered to click to this review of Hitman, clearly you're in the camp not bothered by their poor track record, and know all that already.

I'd put myself in that camp too: I hold my hands up and admit, I like Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. There's a certain enjoyment to be had in seeing a universe you've inhabited and played your way through realised on screen, no matter how badly. And Hitman doesn't buck the trend: it's entertaining fodder for anyone who's ever played the games, but will be lost on most others.

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Hitman seems a strange choice for a movie outing given it lacks the mainstream recognition of Halo or Grand Theft Auto. The series features Number 47, a ruthless assassin, who you control, planning meticulous (and often darkly funny) hits.

That's the general gist of the film too, until the obligatory backstab by his anonymous employer, followed by some globetrotting detective work dotted with stabby/shooty interludes. Here 47 is played by Tim Olyphant (rather blandly, but then he hasn't got much to work with here), who at least looks the part, decked out in a menacingly smart suit.

When 47's hit on a Russian political leader goes awry, he suddenly and oh-so-ironically discovers he is the target of his fellow "Organisation" assassins. Several US TV stars turn up putting on extremely dodgy Russian accents (Prison Break's Robert Knepper) whilst 47 kills his way to an answer.

None of this is very interesting, but the action does make up for it in part. Action scenes get progressively sillier (One scene where 47 and his enemy assassins all pull machetes out of their trousers simultaneously stands out) and 47 pulls hidden guns from increasingly absurd hiding places. The occasional defenestration just about keeps things ticking over, and stops you from getting too pissed about director Xavier Gens' attempts to create a buddy road movie with (Get this) Olga Kurylenko's tart-with-a-heart.

Several gaping plot flaws irritated me throughout, though. What kind of elite and super secret and invisible school of assassins would shave all of their pupils' hair off and tattoo prominent barcodes onto the backs of their heads? Surely that would make them the worst, most conspicuous assassins ever? Mind you, no one at Interpol seems to notice that the large number of bald corpses which pile up in this film are all tagged in this way, so maybe I'm just being picky.

But it's the strange moral ambiguity of the film that bugs most. Clearly we're meant to be rooting for 47, but given his habit of killing everyone it proves a bit hard (in one escape, for example, he murders 16 Russian policemen). Then when prostitute Nika suddenly falls in love with him, we're supposed to be emotionally torn (I think). The focus on the dedicated cops on his tail makes this seem even more unclear. Gens seems to be making some sort of attempt at showing that 47 was raised a killer and it's not his fault, with flashbacks to some sort of assassin monastery, but 47 doesn't have a plagued conscience at all.

Oh well. At least it wasn't directed by Uwe Boll.

Reviewed on: 30 Nov 2007
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Assassin Number 47 hits the big screen.
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Director: Xavier Gens

Writer: Skip Woods

Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Henry Ian Cusick, Michael Offei, Christian Erickson, Eriq Ebouaney, Joe Sheridan, James Faulkner

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, US


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