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Hitman

Year: 2007
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Xavier Gens
Writer: Skip Woods
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Olga Kurylenko, Dougray Scott, Robert Knepper

While video games enjoy more respect through an increase in graphics power, more thought into the storylines employed, more design into the worlds created and a fully formed experience delivered, the exact opposite is usually true of movies based on video games. They usually come with little imagination, pat action characters usually portrayed by people who don't deserve the term 'actor' and action clichés we've seen a million times before.

Perhaps the reason is the inherent constraints of a game. We have to experience them through such narrow parameters that opening those parameters to give more breadth to a movie would make the game unrecognisable.

Whatever the philosophy, even Nietzsche would have agreed movies based on games suck, and while Hitman is an improvement, it's not as good as you've been hoping.

Bought up to be a cold-hearted assassin (surely that's never been done before in a movie), Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is dispatched by his church-like, technology-rich overlords to Russia to kill the popular, moderate new President.

Despite his as-ever faultless methods, he's told the next day he has to take care of a witness to the murder, and his finger stalls on the trigger when he sees her in the street. Sexy hooker Nika (Olga Kurylenko) is obviously the first attractive woman Agent 47's ever seen, her svelte profile for some reason convincing him that she's innocent and the two of them have been plunged into a political conspiracy – especially when a bullet shatters the head of a bystander that was meant to be him moments later.

When the President turns up alive and well the next day with only a bandaid, Agent 47 smells a big Russian rat, and the only person who agrees with him is the Michael (Dougray Scott), the Interpol agent who's spent three years on his trail. Perhaps believing Agent 47 and Nika's efforts to get to the bottom of the mystery aren't interesting enough, the filmmakers spend too much time with Michael and his partner and their battles with Russian police and secret service bureaucracy. Especially when you just know by their snivelling evil that they're part of it, led by police chief Yuri (Robert Knepper).

There are some good scenes and first time helmer Gens isn't squeamish about shying away form either the many splatters of blood or the winsome charms of a barely dressed Nika, but the conspiracy plot is way too complicated for even the average movie-goer to unravel, let alone game fans used to running around shooting people amid the slimmest of narrative structures.

Ironically the weakest link is Olyphant himself. After being the best thing in many of his other films, he's just... nothing here. Agent 47 could have been a tough, unstoppable Terminator-like character, or a dapper dandy who behaves like a gentleman even though he's a killer. Olyphant (and the script) let through a little brute force here, humour there, smarts over here and uncertainty back here again. That sounds like a good thing and a well-rounded character but none of it fits together and the character ends up strangely identity-less.

You've seen a lot worse from the world of games, but there'll undoubtedly be better.

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