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USA 2007
Directed by
Xavier Gens
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
1 stars


Synopsis: Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is the world’s best assassin. Hired to kill the Russian President, he makes the hit then finds himself hunted by his own organisation, as well as Agent Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott) of Interpol. The fact that the President appears to still be alive only complicates matters as Agent 47 dives into a world of political intrigue and killing lots of people.

Action cinema is dead. That’s what this headshot to gunplay and choreographed violence will make you believe by the time the credits roll. How can you screw up a story about a hitman? He kills people. He sits with a sniper rifle and pops the heads of people he’s paid to murder. He pulls out a pair of silenced pistols and guns down improbable numbers of body-armoured, face-plated cannon fodder with ease. He pulls out a razor-wire, sneaks up and garrottes his enemies so that they won’t bother him. In other words, he’s the embodiment of antiheroic cool. A villain to cheer for, feel dirty about, then go have a shower after enjoying the bloodshed. Or he should be. Instead he’s a whiny boy with severe emotional issues who grabs a hooker (Olga Kurylenko) as an informant then keeps her around because he can’t admit he’s become fond of her. The false romance of two misfits thrown together by circumstance is usually a reliable staple of action flicks but it’s so ineptly handled here that it completely fails to engage. It’s just pointless. Like the film.

We’re now into the generation of filmmakers who grew up on Robert Rodriguez and the Wachowski Brothers whose films were inspired by John Woo, who was inspired by Sam Peckinpah, the granddaddy of all action/gunplay filmmakers. Woo took Peckinpah’s style and santized the disturbing aspects of the violence and made it slick and cool. The Wachowski’s and Rodriguez diluted it further. But now we have people who are copying a copy and totally failing to innovate on any level. The Wachowski’s gave us the now-overused Bullet Time technique and Rodriguez infused his action with a perverse sense of humour. But in this appalling waste of time, people holding two guns is meant to substitute for good editing, a knowledge of action geometry and intelligent and artistic framing of the fights. Contrast this cinematic abortion with Equilibrium (Kurt Wimmer 2002), a little known film that features the most innovative action scenes of the past five years, and you’ll just feel depressed. A major gunfight erupts in a drug dealer’s hideout. Agent 47 pulls out twin machine pistols. And all we get is proof that slow motion isn’t cool if what’s on screen isn’t interesting. Two-fisted gunplay isn’t good if the actor doesn’t even seem to know where to aim. Basically, this is a sad and boring film that desperately wants to fit in with the cool kids and does so by dressing up like them. But like all poseurs, the fraud is obvious.

Action cinema isn’t dead, but the fact that there are rotting zombies like this film shuffling around the cinema instead of going direct to DVD gives rise to the fear that in cannibalising the best and delivering the worst, Hollywood is setting a course for far, far lower standards for the genre than we deserve.




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