Hitman Review

Nov 24, 2007 | 4:15am EST

They bred him. They trained him. They unleashed him. And then they betrayed him. Boy are “they” in trouble! It’s never quite clear who “they” are and after awhile one isn’t likely to care. This is yet another of those soulless globe-trotting action blow-outs more concerned with the big bangs than with making sense. Timothy Olyphant plays Number 47 an assassin extraordinaire who’s been set up to take a fall after assassinating--or so he thinks--the Russian president. With a minimum of emotion and a maximum of firepower and fisticuffs Number 47 goes on a rampage of vengeance--all the while pursued by dogged Interpol bloodhound Michael Whittier (Dougray Scott) and a variety of unsavory types who look just like him. Also along for the ride: Nika (foxy Olga Kurylenko) the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold (and the vocabulary of a drunken sailor). There is predictably a fission of romance between Number 47 and Nika but he’s far more comfortable lobbing explosives than pitching woo--which makes her character almost completely unnecessary except as eye candy. The message is clear: If you see a well-dressed bald guy with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head duck--immediately. Hitman was originally designed as a vehicle for Vin Diesel who retains an executive producer credit but even he bailed. Think about that: Diesel walked away from this project. A buff and bald Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard HBO’s Deadwood) attempts from time to time to inject a bit of humor and humanity into his one-note character but a nuanced performance would be an anathema to the film’s overall purpose as a mindless exercise in violence. Like Olyphant Scott (Mission: Impossible II) tries to bring some dramatic shading to his role and like Olyphant his performance is all but obliterated in the barrage of special effects and stuntwork. The legendary Xavier Gens (in his own mind undoubtedly) emphasizes style over substance which is the only way to go because Hitman possesses almost no substance whatsoever. Nor for that matter do movies based on video games. That’s why so many of them including this one don’t make very good movies. At its best which isn’t very often the visual razzle-dazzle of Hitman will engage the eye. Engaging the mind is another matter altogether. The trouble as with most movies of this sort is fashioning a compelling story to wrap around the action. The old adage about the tail wagging the dog comes to mind. So does the old adage about a movie simply being “a dog.” Every time the action changes location a subtitle politely informs us where we are: “London - England ” “Moscow - Russia ” “St. Petersburg - Russia ” etc. Thanks I thought maybe there was another London or another Moscow with Red Square in the middle of it. Therefore as a kindergarten-level geography lesson Hitman does serve some purpose--meager though it is.

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