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Hitman (2007)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/11/2008

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/9/2008

Have movies based on video games become a clichť? Now, I know that a lot of people hate this genre, but feel that if done correctly, the movies can be good. Unfortunately, the films are rarely done correctly. As if the prejudice towards these films werenít bad enough, they have began to fall into the same pattern which plagues television series which are made into movies. The filmmakers take characters which are familiar to the viewers and place them inside of an unnecessarily convoluted plot. Itís as if the filmmakers are attempting to justify the movie and prove their intelligence by throwing way too much story at the viewer. This is certainly the case with Hitman.

Timothy Olyphant stars in Hitman as Agent 47, a professional assassin who works for a mysterious entity. We learn that 47 was trained from childhood to be a killer and is an expert in many forms of murder. 47 is a suspect in over 100 killing and heís being pursued by Interpol operative Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott). 47 receives orders to proceed to St. Petersburg to assassinate the new Russian president, Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen). Despite the fact that the hit seems to go as planned, 47 is shocked to see Belicoff alive and well on TV. The killer is then informed that his cover has been blown by a woman who saw him commit the crime. When he goes to confront this woman -- Nika (Olga Kurylenko) -- 47 realizes that it is a trap and takes Nika with him. The two are now on the run, not only from Whittier, but from those who framed 47 and arranged for his death. In order to clear his name (?!), 47 must betray his own organization, trust his enemies, and utilize all of his skills.

I have to admit that Iíve never played any of the Hitman games, but I have read about them and Iím somewhat familiar with the concept. Admittedly, the idea of having a professional assassin as the main character (and some would say, hero) may not seem like the most morally responsible idea, the Agent 47 character is an intriguing one. The film takes somewhat of a James Bond approach to the idea, as 47 travels the world, going from one exotic locale to another, doing his duty. Heís always one step ahead of the law and his escaped is always planned. It wouldnít be a stretch to say that 47 is not unlike the hard-edged Bond seen in Casino Royale, the only difference being that 47 is all business, and he even brushes off the ladies when heís on a job. The look of Agent 47 is interesting as well. His head is shaved clean, and he has a barcode on the back of his head. He always wears a black suit with a red tie so that he remains inconspicuous. (Although, to be honest the whole bald head with barcode thing really stands out in live-action.)

So, how did this interesting character and concept turn into such a boring and confusing movie? Blame must certainly go to director Xavier Gens (whose film Frontier(s) has gotten good word of mouth) and writer Skip Woods (writer of the new live-action G.l. Joe film). At the outset, the story seems fairly straightforward -- Agent 47 is a professional assassin who is on his latest assignment. The twist of his quarry suddenly being alive is a good one. But, after that, the film becomes a mess of subplots and double-crosses, some of which make no sense whatsoever. (What was all of that about facial surgery?) The movie introduces way too many characters, and then usually kills them off before we get to know them. And then we have the Agent 47 character. Heís an enigma, fine, I can live with that. But, itís difficult to tell exactly what heís thinking at times. He is sarcastic and sardonic or did Olyphant just play him that way (due to talent or a lack thereof)?

To be honest, I hadnít expected a great story, but I did assume that the movie would have some big dumb action scenes. And yes, there are action scenes, but they are very run-of-the-mill and an uninspired. Things blow up, 47 shoots everyone in sight, but any of these scenes could have been taking place in any action film. At no point during these scenes did Agent 47 do anything that we havenít seen other action heroes do. The only aspect that I found unique were the uniforms worn by the Russian soldiers (police?), which resembled the enemies from the video game Killzone.

Iím not sure how fans of the Hitman games will react to the film, but those looking for a good action movie will be disappointed. Despite the presence of some well-known faces (two of which are on hit TV shows), the movie feels like something which would go directly-to-video or play on basic cable. The story is absurd and murky and the action scenes are fairly small and unimpressive. (If youíre looking for something on the same level as Bond or Bourne, you will be disappointed). If I were Timothy Olyphant, I would ask, ďI shave my head for this?Ē

Hitman simply murders on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in a variety of formats. The R-rated cut DVD contains both a widescreen and full-frame version of the film. The unrated DVD contains only the widescreen version. For the widescreen version, the film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Keeping in mind that I was watching one of Foxís preview discs, which notoriously look bad, the image here was OK. The picture did show some artifacting and video noise, but otherwise, it was sharp and clear. There was no obvious grain and no defects from the source material. The colors looked fine and the image was never overly dark. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track as well as a DTS 5.1 track. Both tracks provide clear dialogue and sound effects, but Iíve got to give the DTS track a slight edge when it comes to bringing the action scenes to life. Every explosion and gunshot rocked the room during these scenes and the bullets zipped from the front channels to the surround speakers. The action scenes may be ho-hum, but they sound great.

The Hitman DVD contains an assortment of extras. "In the Crosshairs" (24 minutes) is a fairly straight-forward making of featurette. We get a nice amount of behind-the-scenes footage, and many comments from Director Xavier Gens. Gens and the producers discuss the origins of the film, and not only mention the video game, but they show footage from it. The piece examines each actor and character. Gens describes the look of the film. There is also a discussion of the international flair of the film. "Digital Hits" (10 minutes) gives an overview of the video games and contains many scenes from the game. Creators of the games and others from the world of games comments on the games and what made them unique. They then discuss the transition of game to film. "Instruments of Destruction" (14 minutes) has Weapons Coordinator Christophe Maratier introducing the various the various guns used in the film. The actors and Director talk about the use of weapons in the movie. "Settling the Score" (5 minutes) has an interview with composer Geoff Zanelli, and we get to see him at work. The DVD contains 5 DELETED SCENES, but no "Play All" selection. The alternate ending contained here is a real bummer and I preferred the theatrical ending.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has also brought Hitman to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the disc offers an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps and is housed on a 25GB single layer disc. The image looks very nice here, but it does show some grain and the grain is very notable in some shots. However, the image is very sharp, showing a notable amount of detail, especially in flesh tones. The image has an impressive amount of depth and the colors look very good. The disc carries a DTS HD Master Lossless Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and 1.5 Mbps. I hate to get colloquial, but in short, this track rocks. The action scenes sound fantastic and the amount of detail here is staggering, as we can hear every individual gunshot. The explosions rock the subwoofer and the surround speakers are constantly at work.

The extras on the Blu-ray are identical to those on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long