R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Xavier Gens
scr Skip Woods
with Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Henry Ian Cusick, Michael Offei, Christian Erickson, Eriq Ebouaney, Joe Sheridan, James Faulkner, Sabine Camille Blatechki
release US 21.Nov.07,
UK 30.Nov.07
07/France Fox 1h33
On the run again: Olyphant and Kurylenko

scott thomsen cusick

Hitman There's just enough intelligence in this videogame adaptation to make a decently entertaining film with engaging characters and an intriguing story. But it's a bit po-faced and unremarkable; more outrageousness and humour would have helped.

Agent 47 (Olyphant) is a ruthless hitman-for-hire, trained since birth to be the ultimate killer. But something isn't right about his latest job, assassinating Russia's President Belicoff (Thomsen) in St Petersburg. A supposed witness turns out to be the president's sex-slave Nika (Kurylenko), and then Belicoff mysteriously resurfaces, so our hero tracks down the president's brother (Cusick) in Istanbul for answers. Meanwhile, a tenacious Interpol agent (Scott) is still on his trail, battling with the shifty Russian spy boss (Knepper) for control of the investigation.

Olyphant is perfectly cast as the slick, smooth killer with a polished scalp and stiff social manners. He hasn't a clue how to deal with people on a personal level, so of course this vampy Russian woman drives him nuts. And Kurylenko is terrific as his foil, tormenting him ruthlessly in all the right ways and distracting us from the somewhat pedestrian thriller plotline. And the rest of the cast is amusing as well. It's especially nice to see Scott back in a proper role after several rom-com misfires (including a weak stint on Desperate Housewives); he's much better as the thoughtful tough guy.

Director Gens and writer Woods are clearly going for a high-energy romp, although it's rather too gritty and deliberate to qualify as one. The jokes are all throwaway gags scattered around the edges, while the action is clearly meant to be tough and realistic. At least the fight scenes are exciting; once they drop the automatic weapons, the film becomes genuinely thrilling, with swordfights, punch-ups and some impressive stuntwork.

It also has a great sense of location, smartly using second unit footage of London, St Petersburg and Istanbul to help us believe we're on a Europe-sprawling adventure (most of it was actually shot in Bulgaria). And even if it's gratuitously over-violent, with some random fanboy-baiting nudity (guess who?), at least there's one serious thought under the gleaming surface: how does a good man decide when it's OK to kill someone?

cert 15 themes, strong violence, language 27.Nov.07

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Hitman Simon, Scotland: 2.5/5 "Before seeing this film I had been told it was terrible. I think this sometimes helps to enjoy a movie as you go into it with really low expectations. As it turns out it was kind of enjoyable. The violence is well done, the story is close to acceptable (bourne identity except with memory!) and the actors are above average for a game adaptation especially T-Bag from Prison Break as a Russian Agent. I wouldn't necessarily rush out to go see Hitman, but if your mate shows up with it or your partner brings it home with them; then you perhaps don't need to groan THAT hard!" (16.May.08)
2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall