by HELEN GEIB
Hitman is an odd movie. It’s inexplicable. I don’t mean that as code for “this movie is based on a stupid video game.” I mean that things keep happening that make absolutely no sense.
An example, one among many senseless plot points. The hitman hero has been targeted by his employer and is on the run. He is in the storage area of a train station. He boards an unused train car. A bad hitman is there and they point their guns at each other in a standoff, facing each other in the center of the car. Two more bad hitmen enter, one at each end of the car. Every man has two guns. The first bad hitman points one of his guns at one of the men who just got on. The other two bad hitmen each point one gun at the hero, and one gun at the first bad hitman. Do the bad hitmen have conflicting interests? Were they sent by different employers? Are they going to attack each other as well as the hero?
No. All three are organization flunkies sent as a team to kill the hero. So why were they pointing their guns at each other? There is no logical reason. It’s inexplicable.
The fact that Hitman is based on a stupid video game has surprisingly little to do with the film’s narrative failure. The hero’s hyper-ridiculous backstory is disposed with in a credit sequence montage, and barely referenced at any other point. Of its substance, suffice it to say that any resemblance to any real religious body, past or present, is purely coincidental. Substitute the word “country” for “religion” in that sentence and you have the merits of the depiction of the “Russia” where the film is set, but the fantasy setting is not a serious demerit.
In the real world, a covert organization of assassins-for-hire would presumably realize that sending its hitmen out on jobs with prominent barcode tattoos on the backs of their shaved heads is antithetical to the spirit of a clandestine operation. If I was bothered by things like that, I wouldn’t pay to see a movie based on a video game about a rogue assassin. I am bothered when every new plot twist leaves me increasingly convinced that no one involved in making this movie cared in even the slightest degree about the fundamentals of storytelling.
The action sequences are reasonably entertaining. Hitman has the usual construction of a video game movie, built around an escalating series of challenges showcasing varied weaponry and antagonists. This is a perfectly reasonable structure for an action movie and some of the set pieces are well executed. The swordfight following the train car standoff I described above (don’t ask) was the action highlight for me. Others may prefer one of the shootouts.
Unfortunately, the action does not come frequently enough to carry the film over the plot chasms. The direction of the non-action scenes lacks the verve and visual interest of the fights. The narrative is generally uninteresting as well as bewildering, although the hero’s befuddlement when faced with talking to a girl has a certain juvenile charm.