There seems to be an ongoing discussion these days as to whether or not video games make decent films. I think that what might be occurring with some of these films is that at the end of the day, because the majority of films that seem to be adapted are first person shooters, there's always going to be that sense of action adventure with a fairly hollow plot. When you consider that the Resident Evil and Tomb Raider series seem to basically fall in that vein, that is what people are going to be exposed to. That's not to say that the stories and plots in those games aren't appealing either. But consider what many people consider to be the best video game of 2007 in Bioshock. It's a shooter, but there's such an involved storyline that when it becomes a feature-length film (and it will), it has tremendous crossover possibility to something on the level of a goth-horror overtones, with action mixed in every so often. Making it another shoot 'em up film will cheapen it almost immediately.
So it's with this in mind that I talk about Hitman. The hugely successful video game franchise was adapted to film and has just been released to video. Agent 47 is played by Timothy Olyphant, a guy who apparently is in a show on HBO I haven't seen (Deadwood), and who looks a lot like Skeet Ulrich to me, who I think is some other guy that people are supposed to think is cute but really deserves a good smack in the mouth. Agent 47 is part of a group of assassins, and he's presumably the best among the group of genetic clones who all have a barcode tattooed on the back of their heads. He's assigned to kill a very popular Russian President and it appears the job went according to plan, though when the same president shows up on television that night to say he's fine, Agent 47 begins to wonder who is behind this double cross, but he's also got to stay one step ahead of Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott, Mission: Impossible 2), an Interpol agent whose job it is to find and capture him.
Adapting the video game to a script is Skip Woods (Swordfish), and Xavier Gens appears, directing his first American feature. The result of the film appears to be one that is really nothing more than your typical "loner assassin" type who finds someone who incrementally melts his cold heart. In this case, the person in question is a Russian hooker named Nika (Olga Kurylenko, Paris je t'aime), the Russian president's girlfriend, who might hold the key to all of this. And since Agent 47 is a genetic clone with no visible emotions, things make it a little bit tough. The biggest fault of the film is that there's a lack of internal conflict between his actions and thoughts. As I learned later, since he's a genetic clone, the backstory isn't relevant, but in cinematic areas, that doesn't mean that it's not necessary. Shoot, even RoboCop tried to find out about his feelings, that's one of the reasons why the film lasted and even spawned a couple of sequels. The story that Agent 47 follows with the Russian president (played by Ulrich Thomsen, of the excellent film Brothers) is interesting, but the president's voice seems to be looped in post-production. This is also true of the president's brother, played by Henry Ian Cusick (Desmond from Lost). The film looks to have been filmed in Bulgaria and Russia, so much so that a train station looks a lot like the one at the end of Hostel, or maybe it's because all Eastern European train stations might look the same, I don't know.
So what did I enjoy or learn from watching Hitman? Well, it seems like an enjoyable game, and to be fair, Olyphant's performance is a decent mix of stoicism and conflicted emotion, though he and the other players of the film are clearly hamstrung by a story whose plot confuses the viewer, and whose dialogue insults their intelligence. It's like eating something that tastes like it's been left out for a few days, and the person who made it tries to tell you that the mold that's on the plate is cotton candy. If there's a movement for video games turned into movies, Hitman seems to set it back a bit.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Fox gives Hitman an AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, and puts it all on a BD-25 single layer disc. I liked how the film looked overall, though the transfer rate seemed to not run as high as other discs, and the image seemed to lack a little bit of detail and depth, but Hitman works for what it's supposed to do, I guess.
I quite liked the DTS-HD Master Lossless audio soundtrack Fox gives us with Hitman. Sound effects are reproduced effectively, and all of the action sequences bring subwoofer activity in much of the gunfire and all of the explosions. The dialogue came across as a little bit softer from time to time on the film as opposed to similar Fox releases, and the overall soundstage seemed not as immersive as other reference-quality discs, but this still remained a strong soundtrack.
Fox has generously given the consumer a second disc that has a digital copy of Hitman for download on various computer platforms, including iTunes, which was a particularly welcome consideration, unlike other titles (cough, American Gangster, cough cough). From there, the first disc has the remaining extras, starting with "In The Crosshairs" (24:18), which is your standard piece where the cast and crew talk about the source material, their thoughts on the production, and why everyone they worked with on set was the greatest thing since sliced bread. There's some additional storyboard to film comparison footage in the piece, along with a quick look at the production itself, so I give them credit for compressing as much material into twenty-five minutes as possible. Next is "Digital Hits" (10:36), which focuses on the game and which many people, including G4's Adam Kessler, discuss the game and why they like it so much. The reason for the lack of character backstory is touched upon too, though I still find the explanation a little bit flimsy for cinematic reasons. The "Instruments of Destruction" (14:26) looks at the weapons in the film, the rehearsals for using said weapons, and the prop masters and weapons experts show the real weapons in a live fire setting, which is nice, but the "Settling the Score" piece (5:13) is a little on the boring side. Five deleted scenes (7:57) follow, and aside from an alternate ending which echoes a little bit on the Bourne franchise a little, was probably a better choice than the one we ended up seeing. A gag reel (4:53) is next, one that's actually kind of funny, and trailers for the film, Live Free or Die Hard and the second Alien vs. Predator film complete the disc.
Well, Hitman is a solid technical film, even if the storytelling sorely lacks. However, it's really cool to burn a copy onto your iPod if you feel so strongly about it, but I'm keeping the digital copy for the sake of taking up some space on my little digital library, even if the film kind of stinks. If you liked the games you might not even like the films for that matter, but that doesn't mean that if you don't have a Blu-ray player you shouldn't at least give this a spin and turn it up.