Before you consider anything about Hitman: Agent 47, before the story or characters or action set pieces or fast cars or copious firepower, there’s one fundamental thing to remember: The movie is profoundly dumb. That’s not always a death sentence, as plenty of airheaded movies provide adrenalized popcorn thrills without stopping to ask for directions or worrying about relationships or plot mechanics. Sometimes visceral thrills are more than enough.
In fact, Agent 47 is at its best when it leans into its simple-mindedness and wears it like a badge of pride—something its predecessor, 2007’s Timothy Olyphant-led Hitman, was able to nail more often than not. The follow-up has very little to do with that movie, though it does follow the same basic thread: The titular Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) is an elite genetically-engineered assassin hired to track the scientist who oversaw the experiment that created him in order to stop an evil organization called the Syndicate from creating an army of emotionless killing machines. He teams up with the scientist’s daughter Katia (Hannah Ware) and ultimately must square off against a fellow genetic freak who calls himself John Smith (Zachary Quinto).
Poke any portion of that story cookie and it will turn to crumbs. For example: Katia is already hunting for her father when she runs into 47, but she admits she doesn’t know who she’s looking for or why she’s looking for him. Later, she finds out she’s also been enhanced, granted with superhuman survival skills that mostly manifest in a sort of Spidey sense. But how did she even get started on this quest? And how come her wacky super power only works when it’s convenient to the script? Who is funding all of this, what does the Syndicate do, and is it the same sinister group that exists in the Mission: Impossible universe?
Those questions cover about 45 seconds of the film, and there are plenty more where that came from. But every once in a while, Hitman: Agent 47 puts together a chase, a fistfight, or a shoot-out that turns wanton violence into high art the way that John Wick did (and lo and behold, the second unit director on Agent 47 is John Wick co-director David Leitch). The opening gun battle and the multiple bits involving jet engines are particularly spectacular and lend the movie a visual panache that belies its clearly modest budget.
It’s occasionally funny, too, particularly once Katia and 47 start spending more time together. It’s just too bad the movie is not enough of any of these things. A few more bits of scenery chewing and a more consistent helping of turned-to-11 mayhem might have mutated Hitman: Agent 47 into a cult classic. But in this post-Mad Max: Fury Road action movie age, “occasionally bonkers” just doesn’t cut it anymore. C+