cast: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, and Ulrich Thomsen

director: Xavier Gens

90minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart

Agent 47 is a myth, working for a legend. The Organisation has no nationality, no allegiances and no home; its assassins are the deadliest and most effective in the world. For three years Interpol Inspector Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) has chased Agent 47 across the world, always a body too late. Tonight, Agent 47 has come to Whittier with a story to tell…

Based on the smash hit series of games, Hitman was slammed on release, it seems, because that’s what you do to computer game adaptations. It’s understandable certainly given the low standard of many of the genre but in Hitman’s case it was not deserved. This is a completely competent, consistently entertaining midrange action movie and there are some real surprises thrown in for good measure.

For a start, the performances are uniformly impressive. Scott continues to be the most impressive performer Hollywood have absolutely no idea what to do with but here, for once, he’s actually very well served. It would be all too easy for Whittier to be set up as 47’s stooge, a man whose sole job is to make the assassin look good. Instead, Scott’s unique combination of intellect and physicality means that he’s in many ways 47’s equal and opposite. 47 is a consummate assassin, Whittier is a consummate cop and at times is actually more aware of what’s going on than 47 himself is. Done wrong, Whittier would drag the film down but here he’s both a welcome entry-character to the milieu, and a very different perspective on 47’s world.

Timothy Olyphant as 47 was the centre of much of the criticism of the film and again, it’s difficult to see why. He’s calm, reticent, cold and clearly massively detached, his 47 is a man who knows exactly what he is and has absolutely no problem with it. His motives are even refreshingly simple; 47 is not after his target because of vengeance but due to professional pride. He’s not been allowed to do his job and which angers him more than anything else. Olyphant brings moments of humanity, humour and vulnerability to the role as well as colossal physical presence, a point of stillness at the centre of the mayhem he creates. It should also be noted, for those who felt that Vin Diesel was the best possible choice for the role, that Diesel is listed as a producer.

The real surprise in the cast however, is Olga Kurylenko. As Nika, a woman who finds herself, through no fault of her own, thrown into 47’s orbit she’s exceptional. It would be all too easy for this role to have been little more than decoration, frankly, but Kurylenko’s Nika is spiky, confrontational, broken and immense fun. She realises she makes 47 uncomfortable and revels in that, a woman who only knows how to be physical but wants more partnered with a man who only knows how to bring death and has no idea what he wants. She’s a real force in the movie and she could be a real asset to Quantum Of Solace, the upcoming Bond movie.

Able support is provided by Michael Offei as Jenkins, Whittier’s tech specialist and partner, Ulrich Thomsen as the plausible and amoral Belicoff and two staples of genre TV. Robert Knepper, the gloriously reptilian T-Bag in Prison Break turns in good work as Yuri Markov, and Henry Ian Cusick, Lost’s Desmond, has huge fun in a cameo as Belicoff’s arms dealer brother.

The direction is nimble but crucially grounded and director Xavier Gens never lets the source material get in the way of the story. There are nods to it, certainly, with several shots mirroring the POV of the game, but this plays more like a Bourne movie than anything else, filled with difficult choices and men in nice suits doing terrible things. Skip Green’s script, and Gens’ direction, mesh perfectly here, and the end result feels far more like a high-end espionage/ action movie than it should. Make no mistake, this is a high-end action movie, one that was badly served on release and, in this extended edition, deserves much, much better. If you’re a fan of the genre then you need to see Hitman.