‘Hitman’ Fires Blanks

Reboot delivers only on low expectations

Let’s tally up the warning signs attached to “Hitman: Agent 47,” shall we?

It’s a movie based on a video game. The film arrives eight years after the critically crushed “Hitman” starring Timothy Olyphant, a late attempt to reboot a rickety franchise. And, once more, it’s the story of an assassin who never misses his target.

You can stop yawning now. Consider “Agent 47” a palate cleanser until the Oscar hopefuls start hitting the multiplex. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, delivers a modicum of blood-splattering action for genre fans, and focuses on some gorgeous Singapore locales.

Set your expectations low enough, and “Hitman 47” is an acceptable way to waste 90 minutes.

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The film’s exposition-heavy prologue sets up the story. Scientists once created a biologically superior batch of humans designed to be perfect killing machines. Then, they had second thoughts and scrapped the project. Now, an evil company wants to reboot the program while wiping out the remaining Hitmen. That includes Hitman No. 47 (Rupert Friend), who sports the franchise’s signature look — bald dome, red tie and bar code on his neck.

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No. 47 must stay alive while protecting Katia (Hannah Ware), a mysterious woman tied to the Hitman program in more ways than one. He’ll also have to grapple with Zachary Quinto’s character, who appears by Katia’s side as her protector but may have other priorities in mind.

Consider “Agent 47” a palate cleanser until the Oscar hopefuls start hitting the multiplex.

The core story behind “Hitman” doesn’t drag the movie down. It’s straightforward enough to set the pieces in motion. It’s those pieces that fail to intrigue. Friend brings intensity to the title role, but he can’t do much with a character who is emotionless by design. Katia tries to summon his soul in between gunfights, but we’ve seen this arc performed far better in previous films.

That leaves the action set pieces, rigorously arranged but hampered by far too many edits. Strain your eyes and you’ll appreciate their vigor, but why not opt for a cleaner approach? Then again, with so many bloody head shots taking down Agent 47’s foes, it’s too messy a job in the first place.for-adults

By genre standards, “Agent 47” could use an adrenaline boost. Far too many scenes are gobbled up by generic dialogue delivered by actors capable of better gigs. By the time Friend and Ware start swapping jokes it feels like a late attempt to lure conventional moviegoers in. Nothing doing. “Agent 47” is for gamers and action purists only.

We’re also treated to the obligatory ogle moments common in B-movies, like when Katia takes a dip in a luxurious pool for no apparent reason. It’s as if the filmmakers realized the film will be best served as a late night Cinemax offering and had to act appropriately.

“Hitman: Agent 47” wraps in a tidy 90 minutes, shrewdly putting its guns away before we’re totally numb to their impact. Faint praise? No doubt. Now let’s put a bullet in this unnecessary franchise and move on.

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