Mission: One-dimensional

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Spy chase flick has about as much depth as the video game that inspired it

Stories based on video games have traditionally suffered from the problem of motivation, or its lack. Computer-generated avatars seldom have rich internal lives beyond those of their rich external players.

Stories based on video games have traditionally suffered from the problem of motivation, or its lack. Computer-generated avatars seldom have rich internal lives beyond those of their rich external players. Scriptwriters have grappled with this as far back as the 1982 Saturday morning cartoon Pac-Man, which featured Pac and his pals doing little more than eating power pellets and running from ghosts. Hitman, the latest in the game-to-screen genre, only proves how little has changed. In this movie the main character, a nameless assassin played by Timothy Olyphant (the baddie in Live Free or Die Hard), is described as a ghost rather than being chased by them, and his power pellets are in the form of fine restaurant cuisine, but otherwise theres little to distinguish the basic plot from the eat-or-be-eaten ethos of Pac-Man. The story opens in London; the on-screen teletype obligingly clatters out England, in case we thought it was Ontario. Olyphant, a secret agent so much in his prime he goes by the number 47, has just cornered the man from Interpol (Desperate Housewives Dougray Scott) whos been on his tail for three years. This is our chance to learn that 47 works for The Agency, an organization so secret that no one knows it exists. 47s latest assignment is to assassinate a moderate Russian politician, after which his bosses send him the name and picture of a witness who must also be eliminated. (Shes played by Olga Kurylenko, who if she wasnt a model would have no choice with that name but to become a world-class tennis player.) When 47 realizes she knows nothing of value, he spares her life but kidnaps her, thus adding to the long line of mascara-dripping, stick-thin female sidekicks in skivvies and heels in films produced by Luc Besson. (See Angel-A, Transporter 2, etc.) Xavier Gens sounds like a character name from this Bourne-again genre of secret agent chase movies, but in fact hes the French-born director of Hitman. Hes got a deft hand with the action sequences; I particularly like his choreography of a four-way Mexican standoff in which the participants, at an unspoken signal, all drop their guns and start swordfighting. He has a tendency to shoot 47 from behind, but given Olyphants emotional range in this film it could be argued that the barcode is his more expressive side. The films biggest problem is that were not sure whom to root for, and would have a hard time working up enough energy even if we did. Olyphant has none of the sympathetic backstory of Jason Bourne, and the only characteristic he shares with that other J.B., the suave James Bond, is the number seven. Rating: Two stars out of five

Geographic location: Die Hard, London, England Ontario

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