I’m not going to claim that Hitman is any better than your typical mindless video game adaptation, but I will admit to liking shoddy video game adaptations in general. The combination of an outlandish concept with well established, highly stylized visuals & general lack of a fully fleshed out backstory have made for some pretty fun ventures into schlock in the past: Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, etc. Well, I enjoyed those titles at least. Visually eccentric, but narratively empty properties are well-suited to the action movie format & the video game Hitman (which I’ve admittedly never played or even seen played) works pretty well as a laughably mindless shoot ’em up, all things considered.
You can’t get much more Generic Action Movie than the details of Hitman. The titular assassin, alternately known as “Agent 47”, was raised on some kind of hitman farm where young children are shaved bald, branded with barcordes, and trained to become efficient killing machines. The evil force behind this diabolical plot is (I’m not kidding) The Organization, a super-secret conglomerate with “ties to every government.” Agent 47 kills cops & criminals alike, depending on his orders, and the plot of this particular movie requires him to publicly assassinate the president of Russia, which leads to some bargain basement political intrigue & an unlikely friendship with a sex worker. Or whatever.
The plot of Hitman obviously doesn’t matter too, too much. It’s mostly a necessary inconvenience that provides a framework for the movie’s ludicrous action film charms: grotesque violence (including severed limbs & CGI blood splatter), synchronized martial arts (including an over-the-top swordfight between four of The Organization’s bald, barcoded graduates), and macho fantasy fulfillment (the sex worker sidekick is often naked for the leering camera, of course). There are a couple odd twists on the format here or there, especially in the Hitman’s asexuality, which would melt in most action movies in the face of his prostitute best friend, but holds strong here. However, the hyper-masculine vibe of the film overpowers any genre-subverting oddities, which leads to some unfortunate moments like an out-of-nowhere transphobic gag & some glaring questions about the main character’s life choices (if he’s trying to get by unnoticed, why doesn’t he wear more hats & wigs to cover up that bald head & exposed barcode?). For the most part, though, it’s as enjoyable as a Generic Action Movie can be & when Agent 47 all but promises a Hitman sequel with a winking “I hope I never see you again,” I found myself surprisingly game.