[Screen It]


(2015) (Rupert Friend, Hannah Ware) (R)

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Action: A genetically engineered hitman tries to prevent a woman from falling into the hands of a criminal organization that wants to find her father and restart an assassin program.
Agent 47 (RUPERT FRIEND) is a genetically engineered hitman who's been designed to be faster, stronger and smarter than the average man, all while not feeling any pain or fear. The top secret program that created him was long ago shuttered, but a criminal organization known as The Syndicate -- run by Le Clerq (THOMAS KRETSCHMANN) -- wants to restart it.

Accordingly, they've sent their agent, John Smith (ZACHARY QUINTO), to find Katia van Dees (HANNAH WARE), the adult daughter of the program's original creator, Litvenko (CIARAN HINDS). Agent 47 has separately been tasked to locate Katia -- who has telepathic powers that allow her to see events in the near future -- so that he can then prevent The Syndicate from getting their hands on Litvenko. With the body counting rising in Agent 47's wake, Katia discovers the truth about her abilities, all while having mixed feelings about meeting her father who she hasn't seen since she was a little girl.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
Talk to most any business or personal achievement coach and they'll tell you that persistence and consistent action is what leads to success. While that's not the only reason people or endeavors are successful, both are certainly pivotal and apply to individuals and projects in a myriad of professions and industries. Despite that proven track record, however, it simply doesn't apply to the movie genre of video game adaptations.

Try as they might, studios and filmmakers have only had one such film break the $100 million domestic box office threshold and that was "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" back in 2001. Yet, they keep making such flicks, chasing the gargantuan revenues (sometimes in the hundreds of millions of dollars) they see attached to releases of popular video games, and hoping that some of that money will trickle down to their movie version.

That didn't happen with the first adaptation of the video game "Hitman," and it isn't likely going to occur with this rebooted version either. The first flick, starring Timothy Olyphant as a genetically enhanced assassin, bombed both with critics (earning a score of 14% over at Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences (who only bought $39 million worth of tickets). The same fate is likely to befall this new version that arrives with a slightly modified title, "Hitman: Agent 47," but is otherwise just as violent and boring as its predecessor.

Rather than rehash what occurred the first time around, writers Skip Woods and Michael Finch have come up with a new plot featuring the titular character, but those new story surroundings don't do him or the film any increased good. The tale is simple enough, with opening exposition informing viewers that a secret program was started in the 1960s to create genetically modified, superhuman assassins, but then shuttered. Now, a villainous organization wants to restart it, but they can't find the genetic scientist behind the original work, and thus need to get their paws on that man's adult daughter.

Fortunately for Katia (Hannah Ware), she possesses telepathic powers that allow her to see into the immediate future and thus avoid capture. Despite that and likewise seeing him coming her way, however, she can't get away from Agent 47 (Rupert Friend replacing Olyphant in the chrome dome role) who's been ordered to kill her, although she gets help from another agent (Zachary Quinto) who initially seems to want to help and protect her. It sounds like a watered down version of "The Terminator" minus the time travel and robotics, but the flick then flips the adversarial role by turning "John Smith" into the seemingly indestructible villain and then having Agent 47 as her protector.

Lots of bullets fly, plenty of bodies fall (and get blown up, thrashed and julienne fried, so to speak, and so on) and blood spurts everywhere. Sadly, director Aleksander Bach can only do so much with the material and its related action scenes, particularly since the characters aren't that interesting and we ultimately don't care what happens to them or how the story will be resolved.

The best action flicks have audiences rooting for the hero to win and the villain to fail. The worst are those that leave viewers indifferent, and that latter quality is in full force here. For all of the onscreen mayhem and action-based violence, I was bored to the point that I began to ponder how to start writing the review even before the last death occurred and the flick's 96-some minute runtime was up.

Considering the poor response to the first attempt at making a filmed adaptation of the video game, it's shocking anyone would try a second. Despite a last minute tease that we might not yet be done with this character and his tale, one can only hope that a contract has been put out on this franchise, not only to put it out of its misery, but also to save critics and a handful of viewers from having to sit through yet another lackluster installment of this series. "Hitman: Agent 47" rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed August 18, 2014 / Posted August 21, 2014

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