EMOTIONS LACKING, FOR STARTERS
by Kevin Bowen
published November 27, 2007
now playing nationwide
There could not be a better possible release date for Hitman than Thanksgiving weekend.
After spending all day with the family eating turkey and reliving warm memories of old times, who doesn't want to watch an emotionless assassin with a shaved head whack other people with no remorse? Nothing says "Season's Greetings" like a high body count.
If you need to know the first thing about Hitman, it's that Vin Diesel is the executive producer. Which probably explains why the film feels like a new sequel to XXX, and why with his shaved skull, star Timothy Olyphant (last seen pestering Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard) seems to be channeling the guy handling the money.
Olyphant's character, who has no name beyond an identification number, is a stone-cold, globetrotting killer-for-hire, taken away and trained as a child by the requisite secret organization known as, conveniently and descriptively, The Organization. Now why does a group so begging for anonymity that it doesn't even have a PR-friendly name - might I suggest Geek Death Squad or Assassination Station? - go around stitching bar codes onto the back of its operatives' chrome domes? Perhaps in Russia, where the film is set, everyone has a bar code implanted there. But I'm thinking not.
There's a killing gone weird, a double-cross, a dame in distress, and a rote plot about a Russian politician looking to seize more power through deception. There's a pair of Interpol agents on the killer's tail. And there's rounds and rounds of occasionally exciting but hollow deaths. Perfect for a family gathering.
Hitman is inspired by a video game. That of course carries all sorts of baggage. The best thing about the film is the way it moves. The editing is splendidly crisp, and it was rare that I ever felt bored by it.
So if relief of boredom, beying at the Temple of Distraction, is your reason for attending a movie, I really can't tell you not to go. That's the point of a video game, and you're a grown boy, in all the possible meanings of the phrase. If you have any higher ambitions for the films that you watch ... well, I think you have your answer.
kevinbowen @ stageandcinema.com