In case we haven’t seen the first movie, 2007’s Hitman, featuring Timothy Olyphant as Agent 47, or played the game on which both films were based, we’re given a quick rundown at the beginning to give us a grounding. A government program to create human killing machines with no emotion, no fear and no remorse was, of course, successful. These killing machines were called Agents and they’re conveniently identified by barcodes on the backs of their bald heads. Talk about a giveaway. However, the price of the program was the conscience of the creator, Dr Litvenko, and so the program was shut down. Huh? Like the government cares about that sort of thing. Anyway, the Agents disperse. Various people try to kick the program back into gear and fail, but they persevere.
We kick off in Salzburg, Austria, with a huge gesture-driven display. An Agent presses a button on his smartphone to upload a virus to the system and everyone promptly evacuates. OK, credibility is officially lost before the opening credits are over, but at least the proceedings are pretty. They’re also action-packed. We’re only five minutes in and a bunch of people are dead, two secure facilities are compromised, two cars are destroyed and an armoury has been blown up. At least we can’t accuse the film of skimping on action. Sure, we could have done without the supposedly stylish blue flashing light backing the firefight, the only colour in the scene being the Agent’s red tie, but hey, we can’t have everything.
Then it’s off to Berlin. A young lady doesn’t know who she’s searching for or what his name is, but she knows she has to search. She’s an odd duck: she has hypersensitive sight and hearing, which she suppresses with meds. She can’t bear to be touched. She has major maths skills. She cares about people. And, of course, she’s the target of Agent 47, turning this into a chase in The Terminator style, highlighted to no small degree by a man calling himself John Smith suddenly introducing himself and volunteering to help, save and/or protect her. He’s from Syndicate International, about whom we know nothing except that they have huge gesture-driven desks at their HQ in Singapore. He knows her name, Katia van Deese, and he’s just in time because Agent 47 immediately shows up to kill her. The fight is on.
This film in microcosm is the scene shortly afterwards, well represented in the film’s trailer, after Smith gets Katia into safety at the US embassy. Agent 47 walks through the metal detector in the lobby, loaded for bear, and sticks up his hands so they’ll bring him in deeper. It’s a ‘no, you’re locked in here with me’ scene and yes, they even steal that very line from Watchmen, where Rorschach used it in prison. It’s a very cool, very stylish and very powerful scene, but it would be cooler if it wasn’t lifted from another source.
This is a very cool movie, but it’s also very derivative. There’s cool architecture, even before we get to Singapore. There’s cool tech. There’s a particularly cool use of a Gideon Bible as a weapon. There are also imaginative attacks, such as a great bullet POV sniper shot through a train and a neat way to stop a fast car. The notably international flavour to the cast is impressive too. However, that architecture isn’t used to its full advantage, that tech is mostly unbelievable and those attacks come in between a great deal of repetitive action. We’re also massively reminded of the Terminator movies throughout and the story never really escapes that, even with a couple of fair twists to the concept.
Rupert Friend is an appropriate Agent 47, but it’s the sort of part that could have been replaced with CGI and he doesn’t distinguish himself enough from that thought. Zachary Quinto is appropriate too as John Smith, with his odd mix of acting and non-acting underlining why he was cast as Spock in the Star Trek reboots. He does exactly the same thing here, clearly trying to instil emotion into scenes without really understanding what emotion is. It makes more sense when he’s half-human, half-Vulcan. That leaves Hannah Ware and her inconsistent accent as Katia. She’s actually better than both the guys, because she has the opportunity to find some depth in her role, but she can’t save the film on her own. Ciarán Hinds has too little screen time to help much, but he does good work towards the end. I was hoping to see a lot more of Hong Kong actress Angelababy in an English language film, but she hardly appears at all, which is a real shame.
What I left the film with was how awesome Singapore looks nowadays. The Supertree Grove at the Gardens by the Bay is as iconic a location as I’ve seen since Hitchcock was alive and I’m now waiting to see which blockbuster gets to shoot at the Marina Bay Sands, which is the trio of skyscrapers with what looks like another one lying on top of them. It cost $8b to open and I’m sure they’ll be looking for ways to recoup some of that money from Hollywood, who would be crazy not to seize the opportunity. Sadly I don’t think this is what’s supposed to stick with me the most. ~~ Hal C F Astell