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'Hitman: Agent 47' review: Assassination by the numbers

Rupert Friend in

Rupert Friend in "Hitman: Agent 47." Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Reiner Bajo

"Hitman: Agent 47" begins with a short preamble that looks and sounds like a government dossier, then delves straight into brain-splattering gunplay. If that sounds like the first few moments of an action-based video game, it's because this movie is based on one. "Hitman: Agent 47" couldn't possibly be as much fun as the Xbox or PlayStation versions, though. You can't control it, and you won't get any bonus points for finishing it.

Rupert Friend plays the title character, a genetically enhanced assassin who feels no fear, pain or love. At least he still has a fashion sense: dark suits, red ties and shiny guns are his defining aesthetic. Expressionless, humorless and shaved nearly bald to display the bar-code on his nape, 47 is a dehumanized, over-adrenalized and better-dressed version of Peter Quinn, the mercenary Friend plays on Showtime's "Homeland."

Agent 47 has been assigned to find a young Berliner, Katia (Hannah Ware), who is also being followed by Agent John Smith (Zachary Quinto, way out of his element). What do they want, and which is the good guy? As it happens, Katia can take care of herself. She is fast-moving and hyper-intelligent, and has the remarkable ability to "see" what just about anyone, anywhere, might be doing. (Like many such powers, it kind of comes and goes.) Katia also has a mission of her own: to find a reclusive scientist named Litvenko (Ciarán Hinds).

Even by the low standards of late-summer junk, "Hitman: Agent 47" is a pretty soulless and joyless affair. It's the usual aspirational fashion-spread of Italian suits, German sedans and Scotch whiskey, all presented with little style or originality. The screenplay, by Skip Woods ("The A-Team") and Michael Finch ("Predators"), is a chop-shop job assembled from other movies; in fact, this is a re-boot of 2007's "Hitman." The first-time director, Aleksander Bach, maneuvers his emotionless actors as if by joystick.

"Hitman: Agent 47" does make use of some eye-popping locales in Singapore, notably the vertiginous skywalk of the Gardens by the Bay, and it rigs up one inventive stunt in which a speeding Audi is harpooned like a tuna. Steel yourself for a few dozen sequels, because someone in this film mentions an Agent 90.


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