2007, R, 100 min. Directed by Xavier Gens. Starring Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Ulrich Thomsen, Robert Knepper, Henry Ian Cusick.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 23, 2007
To be sure, Hitman is a lousy film, but like the video game that inspired it, it's also great fun, drawing as it does on everything from James Bondian Eurotrash panache to Vin Diesel's moribund XXX character. Studio backchatter had been buzzing awhile back about credited director Gens – helmer of the French gorefest Frontière(s) – getting sacked in the interest of a less violent take on the assassination game via longtime editor Nicolas De Toth (Live Free or Die Hard). However, who directed what is about as fruitful a line of query as "What the hell?" since the entire movie – including its clichéd slo-mo ballistic ballets and Kurylenko's generous swallow-your-tongue, ooh-la-la-isms – is ripped off from its myriad genre predecessors (not least of which are La Femme Nikita and The Professional, both from Hitman co-producer Luc Besson). The only thing original about Hitman is the notion that Olyphant would make a kickass, morally ambivalent antihero. Predictably, that's the one thing Hitman gets totally wrong. Olyphant looks like a cut-rate Diesel and sounds like he's battling 1,001 accents (courtesy of 1,001 EU character actors) instead of the KGB, the CIA, and his own mysterious past. Still, Hitman is nothing if not a brain-dead pleasure bomb. It is, indeed, one of those rare, so-bad-it's-good shoot-’em-ups, where nothing seems to make all that much sense, but you likely won't give a damn, because the film never cripples its forward momentum with such trivialities as narrative logic or motive. All anyone needs to know about Hitman is that pseudo-director Gens had a hand in the equally sui generis laff-riot Double Team a decade ago and that Olyphant shoots a lot of people, some of them possibly Russian. Why does this enigmatic killing machine have a UPC scanner code tattooed on the back of his shorn noggin? Who does Thompson think he's playing – Gary Oldman in True Romance? When will Kurylenko take her clothes off? All these puzzlers and more will be revealed – or, mostly, not – in what I can honestly say is "the best film I've seen in the last three hours."