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Hitman is the big-screen adaptation of the popular Eidos video game, and like most movies based on video games, it's a loser.


They bred him. They trained him. They unleashed him. And then they betrayed him. Boy, are "they" in trouble! It's never quite clear who "they" are, and after awhile one isn't likely to care. This is yet another of those soulless, globe-trotting action blow-outs more concerned with the big bangs than with making sense. Timothy Olyphant plays Number 47, an assassin extraordinaire who's been set up to take a fall after assassinating--or so he thinks--the Russian president. With a minimum of emotion and a maximum of firepower and fisticuffs, Number 47 goes on a rampage of vengeance--all the while pursued by dogged Interpol bloodhound Michael Whittier (Dougray Scott) and a variety of unsavory types who look just like him. Also along for the ride: Nika (foxy Olga Kurylenko), the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold (and the vocabulary of a drunken sailor). There is, predictably, a fission of romance between Number 47 and Nika, but he's far more comfortable lobbing explosives than pitching woo--which makes her character almost completely unnecessary, except as eye candy. The message is clear: If you see a well-dressed bald guy with a barcode tattooed on the back of his head, duck--immediately.


Hitman was originally designed as a vehicle for Vin Diesel, who retains an executive producer credit, but even he bailed. Think about that: Diesel walked away from this project. A buff and bald Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard, HBO's Deadwood) attempts, from time to time, to inject a bit of humor and humanity into his one-note character, but a nuanced performance would be an anathema to the film's overall purpose as a mindless exercise in violence. Like Olyphant, Scott (Mission: Impossible II) tries to bring some dramatic shading to his role, and like Olyphant his performance is all but obliterated in the barrage of special effects and stuntwork.


The legendary Xavier Gens (in his own mind, undoubtedly) emphasizes style over substance, which is the only way to go because Hitman possesses almost no substance whatsoever. Nor, for that matter, do movies based on video games. That's why so many of them, including this one, don't make very good movies. At its best, which isn't very often, the visual razzle-dazzle of Hitman will engage the eye. Engaging the mind is another matter altogether. The trouble, as with most movies of this sort, is fashioning a compelling story to wrap around the action. The old adage about the tail wagging the dog comes to mind. So does the old adage about a movie simply being "a dog." Every time the action changes location, a subtitle politely informs us where we are: "London - England," "Moscow - Russia," "St. Petersburg - Russia," etc. Thanks, I thought maybe there was another London, or another Moscow with Red Square in the middle of it. Therefore, as a kindergarten-level geography lesson, Hitman does serve some purpose--meager though it is.

Bottom Line rated this film 1 1/2 stars.