Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Probably one of my favorite videogames of all-time is ĎHitman: Codename 47í from Eidos.  Released back in 2000 for PCís Ė because REAL gamers get down on PCís -  Hitman was so intense and violent that one wonders where the U.S. Senators were when THAT game was released.  Plus there were no save points in the in-game missions, not really at least, so you could go through a whole mission, on the verge of making it alive only to die getting on a helicopter to freedom and have to start it all over again.  Because of that dynamic, you literally played the game gripping your mouse and keyboard so tight that your knuckles turned white.  If you have pink knuckles that is.  I donít actually, and I really canít think of colloquialism similar to that so my bad.  Then one day we hear that Hollywood, or Euro-Wood to be more exact in its infinite wisdom is going to make movie out of this glorious game.  We all know that videogame movies generally suck hard, and the reason for this I believe is that a filmmaker has to find a way to cram basically a months worth of gameplay into 90 or so minutes of movie, and they usually fail at finding a happy medium.  So how did this videogame translation turn out?

47 (Timothy Olyphant) as he is called, for as far back as he can remember, only knows how to do one thing, and thatís kill people.  Cleaved from a secret society of boys brutally raised to be assassins, each branded with a barcode on the back of their bald heads, 47 is the best of the best assassins on the planet.  Dispatched to Russia for a particularly dicey job, 47 has been assigned to assassinate the newly elected president of Russia, which he does from 4 kilometers away located in an open building construction.  Now I donít know how it works is Russia, but when a U.S. President comes to our town, they pretty much lock down the entire state.  Iím talking thereís a

police presence on freeways that are a good 25 miles away from wherever the Commander-in-Chief happens to be speaking, but this is Russia I guess.  Things get dicey for 47 when his contact informs him that he has missed his target, which we know is nigh impossible, and he is also alerted that there is a witness to his act and that she needs to be eliminated.  When 47 sees the lovely prostitute Nika (Olga Kurylenko) on the street he knows immediately that she is no witness, and when the guns start to pop, 47 realizes that he has been setup.

Chasing 47 for the last few years is Interpol agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) who has managed to track the assassin to Moscow, but finds his efforts to apprehend 47 hampered by the Russian F.S.B and its security chief Yuri Marklov (Robert Knepper).  What agent Whittier doesnít know is that there is a deep conspiracy afoot and 47 is single minded of purpose to get to the bottom of it.  47 has determined that he has been paid to do a job, and that job has been left unfinished, and with his pretty Russian prostitute by his side, God help anybody who gets in this his way.

After watching the completely ridiculous but marginally entertaining ĎResident Evil: Extinctioní, I proclaimed that film the Best Videogame Movie Ever.  It was faint praise, but still I held that to be true considering its competition.  Well friends we have a NEW Best Videogame Movie Ever, and that is ĎHitmaní.  Now ĎHitmaní certainly has its problems but what it does well, it does really well.  Timothy Olyphant actually makes a damn good Codename 47 which I didnít expect because seeing after the trailers he didnít seem, what would be the word, harsh enough for the role.  Olyphant being somewhat slight in build with a soft a voice and a cover boy look seemed grossly miscast for the role of our favorite misunderstood hitman, but it didnít take long for director Xavier Gens to meld Olyphantís trademark intense glare with 47ís classic black suit and red tie to waylay any concerns about Olyphantís ability to assume to role of the master assassin.  Olyphantís ability as an actor works best in the intimate scenes with the prostitute Nika, because she is able to take 47 out of his comfort zone and 47ís reactions to not having control over a given situation is fairly priceless.  Should there be sequels, and if the movie makes at least a dollar you know there will be, I hope Olyphant signs on for a couple of them.  The action sequences are very well realized with great gun battles, knife battles, and explosions galore.  This is an R-rated movie folks with plenty of blood splatter, bullets to the head and Olga Kurylenko, who is built for speed as opposed for comfort, blessing us with a couple of completely unnecessary nude scenes.

Those who have played the game will also appreciate the ĎGamers Viewí angle of 47 that Director Gens often uses and Iím fairly certain that Gens and his screenwriter Skip Woods have played the game as a lot of the elements from the game have made it into the film.

Where ĎHitmaní struggles is in the overly complex narrative that under even the slightest bit of scrutiny falls completely apart.  One might ask, with the fate of a country in the balance, how come one lowly prostitute, sexy though she may be, has the secret that even the highest members of the Russian government arenít aware of.  The concept of political doubles is completely baffling and characters do things in the film that only characters in movies do.  And without giving too much away, even the ending was bit confusing and didnít make a hell of lot a sense.  Very little story-wise made a whole lot of sense in ĎHitmaní, but whadayagonnado?  Plus not one single person even thought to ask why in the hell is dude walking around with a barcode on the back of his head.

But for me at least, the severely fractured and flawed narrative was outweighed by the glorious action, brutal violence, gratuitous nudity and the opportunity to see Codename 47 move from my old 17 inch monitor on to a glorious digitally projected Cineplex movie screen.  The praise may be still faint, but ĎHitmaní is by far the Best Videogame Movie Everí.  At least as of today.

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