‘Hitman: Agent 47’
Director: Aleksander Bach
Stars: Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware
2 (out of 5) Globes
There’s only one thing of note in “Hitman: Agent 47” and those are the action scenes. Considering how many of them there are that should be enough. And then there’s who’s choreographed them: Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, journeymen in the art who last year cashed in their chips to make “John Wick” themselves. It’s true “Agent 47” director Aleksander Bach (of commercials) cuts too much; “Wick” played out in long takes that allowed you to drink in the balletic mayhem. But Bach cuts on the blows, every punch or kick or (in most cases) bloody head shot punctuated by an edit that increases each one’s power. They’re momentary jolts, hitting the brain then heading straight into that oblivion section seen in “Inside Out,” right where poor Bing Bong evaporated for time immemorial. But it’s not like they didn’t happen.
They also serve to briefly enliven what otherwise feels DTV-level generic. “Agent 47” is worse than that: It’s a video game movie, not to mention a spin-off of a film from eight years ago that hasn’t been mentioned in five (outside of studio offices, that is). The first, from 2007, starred Timothy Olyphant. He’s (finally) a god now, so instead we get rat-faced Rupert Friend, who also comes from an assembly line of genetically engineered assassins. 47 wants to stop a resuscitation of this top secret program, which is like “Bourne” but with tailored suits. That, of course, means he wants to stop a franchise that too has revived itself for unsavory reasons. (The main baddie, played by Thomas Kretschmann, never leaves his ivory tower office, much like a studio head.)
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Along for the ride, through Berlin and Singapore, is a mysterious woman (Hannah Ware, apparently the English Olga Kurylenko), who unbeknownst to her has the same super-powers 47 does. The two are pursued by Zachary Quinto’s snarling baddie. Whenever the action takes a rest — or even between punches and bullet firings — it’s easy to feel sad for Quinto, who’s saddled with the bulk of the one-liners, which combine groan-worthiness with a flamboyant disregard for sense. “I thought you weren’t a legend until you were dead,” 47 quips at him. “Oh, you are,” Quinto retorts. “You just don’t know it yet.” It’s as though it was translated from another language by computer and Quinto was forced to say it at gunpoint. Ditto when Quinto sneeringly tells 47 that a number isn’t a name. 47 snaps back: “It isn’t. But it is mine.”
But this isn’t about the curious dialogue and the lame writing. (Or it’s about that too: At one point 47 is captured by officials, and his interrogator actually brings his big-ass gun into the room, then loads it in front of him. Guess what happens next?) It’s about parts where anonymous henchman are sucked into reverse jet engines or squashed into crimson goo by super-mega-clamps. Those come from a warehouse melee — the only set piece that comes close to being playful, let alone memorable. Despite Stahleski and Leitch on staff, the fights tend to be repetitive and interchangeable: a shootout in a room, a shootout on city streets, a shootout in another, different room. No matter how many times Bach falls back on people’s heads being blown apart — something “John Wick” refrained from, having even more baddies shot in the head but showing no blood — it’s all the same, over and over. It’s a time-waster peppered with gore and funny-bad dialogue. The only thing that may last is the castle the great Ciaran Hinds — playing a sought-after, asthmatic inventor — probably bought with his paycheck.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge