It’s not that video game movies are bad because they are based on video games — things that are usually void of character development and plot in favor of cheap thrills — it’s just that they’ve mostly been handled by hacks, from the director down to the caterer. This usually makes the movie about as tedious as the filmed vignettes you’re forced to watch in between the video game’s levels.
Hitman is the newest example of a video game movie, although by the time you read this review, chances are there’s another video game movie out in theaters. Uwe Boll seems to crap out about a half dozen of these things each year. Anyway, Hitman does little to advance the fate of video game movies, due to bland characterization and a murky yet simple plot. That said, it’s a visual feast of bullets, blood and Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace). But that’s about the only thing Hitman has going for it.
The plot can be summed up very simply. Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is double-crossed on a mission and wanted dead. Along the way he meets up with a Russian prostitute (Kurylenko) who helps him form somewhat of a moral compass, which pretty much becomes shooting someone in the chest instead of the head. Agent 47 isn’t exactly a guy you can root for, since he single-handedly wipes out most of Russia’s SWAT team early on in the film.
I can get the whole “playing as the bad guy” thing in video games because it allows the player to blow off the stress of the real world vicariously through our consequence-less character. But in the movies, if you’re going to have us root for the bad guy (Lord knows I have done that — The Godfather and Scarface are two of my favorite films) at least make the bad guys interesting. Agent 47 comes off about as deep as a rain puddle.
Xavier Gens (Frontiers) has a very Woo-ish visual style when it comes to filming action, and this film pretty much runs on blood. He doesn’t just show you a guy getting shot, he wants you to see the shape his brains make when they splatter against the wall. And for Hitman‘s target audience, that’s probably about the best thing I could say about the movie for them. But for me, I already played that game. It was called “Being a Teenager”.
Hitman is filmed in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The colors are bright, rich and everything you’d expect of a big studio new release. The image can get slightly grainy at times, but overall, this is a solid picture.
The DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks are amazing. From the score down to the last bullet fired, the people behind Hitman want you to hear it as much as you see it. The many gunfights, while tedious in the context of the film, sound great. Each burst of gunfire is given its very own bass line on the subwoofer. Even car doors slamming made me reach for the remote in fear of the neighbors complaining. A perfect audio experience.
In the Crosshairs is a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the cast and their involvement with one another and director Xavier Gens. Surprisingly, the actors talk candidly about their roles and the film. At 24 minutes, it may feel a bit long, but never padded with filler.
In Digital Hits, people in the video game world discuss the Hitman video game and what made it such a huge success. The last 5 or so minutes involves Gens and his mission to incorporate many of the game’s signature features into the film. I’ve never played the game, but after watching this feature, it looks to me like he did a great job making the film feel like the game.
Instruments of Destruction is a look at the real-life weapons used in the film. The feature is divided into chapters for each weapon, which includes a Blaser R93 LRS2, MM16, FN F2000, Micro Uzi, and a M240.
Settling the Score takes a look at the music used in the film and how the film’s music supervisor, Geoff Zanelli, approached scoring it.
Next up is a Gag Reel, something rare for an action movie. But throughout the special features we get a feel that the actors and crew had a blast making this movie, and it’s proven here.
All of the Deleted Scenes were throwaways, except for the alternate ending, which would have ended things on a much different note. I actually wonder which ending is better. I think I would have preferred the alternate one now that I think about it. Definitely worth a look, unlike other “alternate endings” slapped onto DVD’s nowadays.
Finally, trailers for some FOX studio movies are shows are to be found, including the above mentioned Uwe Boll’s Lord of the Kings rip-off, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.
There is a lot packed into a small space on the single-disc version of Hitman (there is a 2-disc Unrated version also available). That said, nothing ever feels cramped. The A/V specs are given a lot of room to breathe and are both near-perfect quality, and there are a bunch of informative Special Features to be found as well. The film itself is nothing great, but should please its target audience. So… if you want a movie to show off your system, Hitman might be worth a purchase. If you’re looking for a stylistic action movie with little plot or characterization, then a rental should suffice.