Hitman: Extreme Edition Review
Hitman is a bore and, what is worse, it’s a pretentious bore. Xavier Gens, who is the gentleman responsible, seems to think he’s making something unusual but this is really nothing more than another self-pitying wallow in the loneliness of the long-distance assassin, spiced up with action scenes which would be more exciting if we actually cared about anyone involved in them. Never having played the game upon which it is based, I can’t say how true it is to the original, but if the game is as dull as this then I can’t say I’m sorry to have missed it.
The plot is tortuous but, oddly enough, doesn’t really go anywhere. Agent 47 is a hitman working for a mysterious organisation called, er, The Organisation. When one of his hits – a contract on the life of the Russian President - goes wrong, he is plunged into a complicated double-cross while being chased by Interpol, personified by the terminally dim Mike Whittier. Things are complicated when he gets platonically involved with a supposed witness, Nika (Kurylenko), who turns out to be the kept woman of the Russian President. After much chasing around Eastern Europe, the relationship between the two hasn’t developed much since 47 is hopelessly inhibited and seemingly incapable of sexual love.
Basically, as the above synopsis suggests, this is nothing you haven’t seen before. The character of 47 is a spy movie cliché – the cold-hearted, ruthless assassin who has closed down his emotions and is incapable of functioning in normal society – and his symbiotic relationship with the Interpol agent is heavily reminiscent of a variety of spy novels written by Le Carre and Graham Greene. However, Xavier Gens and writer Skip Woods treat it all in such a po-faced fashion that they seem to think they’ve just invented it. Fundamentally, Hitman isn’t very much fun and it’s apparent sense-of-humour bypass is one of the things which makes it a chore to watch. The only laughs in the film are unintentional. I particularly love this line - "Rumour has it that he works for a group known only as the organisation. So secret no-one knows it exists". But if no-one knows it exists, how can there be rumours about it? Also, the film drags so much that one begins to find things to snigger about – the recurring question in my mind was about the highly distinctive appearance of Agent 47 and, indeed, his hitmen brethren - how does it help The Organisation to have its agents wandering around looking like a group of uncircumcised cocks?
The plotting rapidly becomes ludicrous. Agent 47 seems capable of going anywhere, doing anything and vanishing immediately without a trace. Where does he get a nice new tailor-made suit from in the middle of the night? If 47 is so cold and ruthless why does he constantly fail to kill Mike Whittier? And where are all these doubles of one of the most famous men in the world coming from? If the film were well made then it would be possible to overlook these quibbles but it is very mediocre. Dismally unatmospheric photography makes sure that each globe-trotting location looks as nondescript at the last. The obnoxious music score pounds endlessly, hopelessly trying to sell excitement. As for the acting, Timothy Olyphant remains in the category of actors who seem to be considered stars for no better reason than the studios say they are. He can’t find a scrap of interest in the character of Agent 47 and, lacking charisma, he soon becomes a hole in the screen. Still he’s better than Dougray Scott who seems unsure of what he’s doing in the movie – it certainly isn’t acting. I should also offer a few unkind words for Olga Kuryenko who is one of the most unappealingly scuzzy heroines I’ve seen in a film for some time. She seems totally irrelevant to the plot except for the purpose of reminding us that Agent 47 is resolutely celibate.
Xavier Gens also manages to botch the action scenes which should be a no-brainer to stimulate some excitement. The fight in the subway train is the best set-piece in the film but the decision to use swords rather than guns seems to have more to do with Kill Bill than any plot logic. Let’s face it, if you can’t get the action right in this sort of film, what hope have you got? I’m irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that video games and film simply don’t mix. Consequently, bad as it is, Hitman isn’t a missed opportunity because the opportunity was never there.
As expected for a recent cinema release, Hitman arrives on DVD in superb condition on a disc which is very nicely put together. It is advertised as the ‘Extreme Edition’ but what extra footage has been added is a moot point. Certainly, the film is very violent, rather more so than the 15 certificate would suggest but the ninety minute running time (from ninety-three in the cinema and accounting for speed-up) indicates that not much more has been added.
The film is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and has been anamorphically enhanced. It’s an excellent transfer which offers exceptionally natural colour, strong and deep blacks and plenty of fine detail. The slightly grainy appearance would seem to be intentional and of a piece with the prevailing style of the moment for action movies. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is equally impressive, storming the surround channels with music and ambient effects. Dialogue is clear and the sub-woofer frequently comes into play with the all-important gunshots and explosions.
The extras begin with four featurettes, all of which are full of talking heads telling us, in a manner which is more pathetically pleading than enthusiastic, that the film is really, really cool. The person doing most of the kvelling is the producer who tells us what a good movie he thinks he’s made and should, consequently, win an award for self-belief beyond the call of duty. The first featurette, In The Crosshairs is a study of the making of the film which doesn’t include anything of interest except for one bad actor telling us what a huge fan he is of another bad actor. The second, Digital Hits looks at the original game and its links to the film. This is quite interesting for anyone who has never played it. Instruments of Destruction is a series of short pieces about the various weapons used in the film although firearms fans will be disappointed to learn that it isn’t accompanied by information about where to get hold of them. Settling The Score is about that bloody awful music by someone called Geoff Zanelli who talks about the music being “symbiotic to the picture and to the story”. He seems to think you have to tell the story musically which explains what’s wrong with his score.
There’s also a gag reel which is about as funny as a prostate examination and five deleted scenes. Of these, the most interesting one is an alternative ending. This is more downbeat than the one included in the movie and is consequently a little more satisfying.
The film has optional English subtitles as do all of the special features. There is also an English Audio Description track.