Eurotrash of the worst sort, “Hitman” comes nowhere near the target. Another movie based on a video game, it’s marred by a preposterous plot, slipshod set pieces, flashily ugly visuals and a miscast leading man. Imagine a picture three or four rungs below what even producer Luc Besson has previously managed on his worst day in this genre, and you’ll get some idea of how bad this movie is: it’s Uwe Boll bad.
Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant), as he calls himself late in the tale, is one of a group of youngsters trained by a shadowy outfit called The Organization—as we see in an artsy introductory montage, accompanied for some reason by Schubert’s “Ave Maria”—to be assassins-for-hire. He’s supposedly the best of the lot, and accepts a big job—to kill Russian president Mikhail Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen). But the job turns out to be a set-up for a coup, and 47 is meant to be liquidated by the Russki secret police chief (Rob Knepper) as part of the scheme. His crusade to ferret out the guys who made him a mark links him up with the prexy’s mistress Nika (Olga Kurylenko), a sultry looker who warms his customarily icy persona, and his arms-dealing brother Udre (Henry Ian Cusick). And meanwhile he’s being pursued by his own Javert, an intense but singularly inept Interpol inspector (Dougray Scott) and his lapdog of an assistant (Michael Offei).
Virtually nothing in “Hitman” makes the slightest sense from a narrative standpoint, but other action movies with equally idiotic plots have at least provided some dumb fun. This one is just tedious and sloppy. Much of the problem rests with the title character, a bland man in a black suit with a bald head on which a bar code is imprinted at the back. (You’d think that such a figure might be a mite conspicuous, but nobody ever seems to notice him. And the barcode really looked better on Jessica Alba.) He’s quite simply a dull fellow, all the more so because Olyphant proves to have not just a tinny voice and strangely loping walk, but zero charisma. (He was also a drag as the villain in the recent “Live Free or Die Hard.”) It’s easily the worst instance of casting in this sort of picture since Billy Zane donned purple tights to play The Phantom. The rest of the cast is terrible too, but their awfulness merely contributes to the dismal aura Olyphant sends off.
But maybe Olyphant was simply depressed over the moronic character of Skip Woods’ script, Xavier Gens’ lax, laissez-faire direction and the drab, unfocused cinematography of Laurent Bares. “Hitman” isn’t just a mess from a storytelling perspective; it’s also slapdash in purely visual terms, despite being shot on some potentially attractive locations.
A movie of this kind has only one reason to exist—to get our adrenaline running. And the ultimate failing of “Hitman” is that it’s an unexciting tale about a dreary anti-hero. Despite its title, in every crucial respect the picture shoots nothing but blanks.