Hitman: Agent 47 did so many things right. For starters, it wasn’t an origin story. The origin of the titular character was neatly summed up in the first 30 seconds of the film, before the title sequence. Everything was clearly lined up and explained. Some people wanted a thing to happen and some other people wanted to stop that; now they’re going to fight.
An assassin teams up with a woman to help her find her father and uncover the mysteries of her ancestry.
Being based on a video game, makers of Hitman: Agent 47’s audience would be used to having a button to skip past the talking bits to get to the action get to the action. I found myself wishing I had that button here. The dialogue was flat as a video game cut scene, just there to make sure the all the action scenes made sense. Refreshing that we weren’t told who was good and who was evil, but I wasn’t sure who to root for at first. This movie was slow starting and didn’t find itself until the mid-point when it stopped coyly trying to keep us guessing and had the characters focus on their actual goals.
I really liked Rupert Friend. There were moments where I felt some sympathy for his character. He was especially convincing as a genetically engineered sociopath and his action scenes were top notch. His blank but intelligent stare, his unhurried walk between bullet-storms and his mild explanations for the most stunning violence were wonderful. I liked Zachary Quinto too, it was especially fun to see him fighting but he didn’t ever take off his shirt.
Another mention of the Bechdel Test: there was one and only one woman in this movie. Usually I try not to notice things like that but it was really glaring in Hitman and (must have noticed during a particularly slow talking bit) It’s probably because there are special rules regarding women in this film (and most action films) which are unspoken and binding. You can kidnap a woman, drug her, deceive her, tie her up, threaten her or ignore her entirely, but you cannot actually overtly hurt her. You can’t hit a woman unless it’s a plot point and you definitely can’t shoot her between the eyes making her brains poop out the back of her head (thank you Cracked.com for that turn of phrase) like so many male characters in this movie.
So why weren’t there more women in this movie? Because having even one character with these rules sounds exhausting to write, more than one would be impossible. To balance it out though, the woman character can be as bad-assed as you want. It works even better that way actually – your bad guys can still try to hit her, they just can’t because she’s too awesome. And if the only woman your action movie is almost unstoppably proficient, is it still sexist?
Thematically this movie touched on, very briefly, what it means to be human, freedom, destiny and I guess some other things. This wasn’t about anything except action really, which plonks it firmly into Movie Chinese Food territory. It was definitely made for the fans of the video game and seems to do it justice but I think I’d rather play the game instead.