November 24, 2007

Firing Blanks

Oh No!
It's Time For Yet Another Installment of ...

Today's Feature: "Hitman"

Plot Spoilers Ahead

IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME since I have written up a "Bad Cinema With Ben" feature -- more than a year, actually -- but I am pleased to report that finally, I have come across a movie bad enough to write about. The dearth of posts on this subject was primarily the result of me watching good movies, which aren't as fun to write about because everyone else has already said everything that needs said.

Of course, I could have watched a good movie Friday after I got out of work -- and "Hitman" would certainly be my third choice if one looks at the eight choices on offer at the theater. Let's look at the list.

Four of the films were out of contention immediately. "Bee Movie?" It's been done. "Fred Claus?" So. Not. Money. "Enchanted?" Wikipedia called it a "comedy-fantasy-musical," and I'll pass. Then, last but not least on the immediately out-of-contention list, was "Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium." Given the title, I initially thought what any right-thinking American would think -- that the movie took place in and around a seedy Brooklyn sex shop, the type of place where people furtively buy adult novelties and pay quarters to watch pornographic videos. However, as it turned out, this movie was actually some sort of family film. That also ruled it entirely out of contention.

Next on the list was "Beowulf." I would have been down for Beowulf except Grendel's mother somehow turned into Angelina Jolie, and as such was treason to the old epic. Grendel's mother is not supposed to be hot, even if she's hot in a way I don't particularly dig. Then, you had "The Mist" -- my No. 2 choice on the list. But then I remembered that old Stephen King story scared the hell out of me back in elementary school and there was no frickin' way I was going to bring back those memories. Finally, you had "American Gangster," which I should have watched because it was clearly the best movie at the multiplex. But the showing was too late and the movie is like three hours long and by the time it had finished I would have been due for afternoon tea, and that would not have worked. So I went with "Hitman."

The previews to "Hitman" were particularly uninspiring. First, there was a trailer for "I am Legend," which involves Will Smith as the sole survivor of a horrible plague which has turned everyone else into crazed mutants. Gee. This sounds familiar. Then there was a trailer for "Jumper," a movie about annoying people with the ability to teleport. I am not a fan of superhero movies, so I thought this looked dumb. Also, there was a trailer for "Wanted," yet another uninspiring movie about some lame-o who discovers that his father was an assassin and gets recruited into a shadowy agency that apparently conducts assassinations as part of its work. This movie also had Angelina Jolie in it, which didn't impress me.

Thus, a question: why is it all of a sudden we're seeing myriad television shows and movies about lame-o beta males getting drafted into the service of shadowy Government agencies that conduct intelligence work? I can only assume they are popular and indicative of market demand for such product, but nonetheless I find them disturbing. Quite frankly, I do not want lame-o beta males anywhere near shadowy Government agencies that conduct intelligence work. Shadowy Government agencies that conduct intelligence work are expensive, and as a taxpayer, I want maximum value for my killing-America's-enemies dollar. Get some Navy SEALs in there or something, not some whiny sunken-chested 24-year-old who will get all antsy and angst-ridden about knocking off Castro. Simply put, I want to see leaders in these movies, not some hormone-addled snot whose attraction to the alpha female lead brings to mind Charles Colson's famous quip: "Grab 'em by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow."

Along these lines, I was particularly annoyed with the "Wanted" trailer because it openly pandered to soft and weak notions about the meaning of power. Morgan Freeman's character, who is apparently Chief Spook in the film, delivers a lame soliloquy about how one can decide to be a "sheep" or "wolf," the former living a boring life in an office environment and the latter being a maverick and thinking outside the box and committing various violations of the U.S. Code. Now, perhaps it's just me, but this is kind of pathetic. Unmanly is what it is. In this day and age, power is not about blowing stuff up or driving dangerously -- power is about not having to raise one's voice.

But I digress. We were discussing "Hitman," were we not? Yes. Anyway: stupid, stupid film. One would think by now that Hollywood would have realized that you have to make the movie first and then develop the video game to make a boatload of cash, not the other way around. Yet here we were with another video game-turned-movie franchise. Oy vey.

Anyway, here's the plot. Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is a master assassin who was trained from birth to do this work in some evil mystical school devoted to producing master assassins. No location for this school is ever shown, but it's fair to say it's in Secaucus, N.J. Anyway, after Agent 47 goes through his training, his evil masters inexplicably tattoo a bar code on the back of his bald head. I'm sorry, but what the hell's that all about?

TRAINER ONE: Quality control wants us to do what?
TRAINER TWO: We've got to tattoo UPC symbols on the back of everybody's head. Didn't you see the memo?
TRAINER ONE: What memo? Jesus Christ, I work for the funny farm. That's the stupidest --
TRAINER TWO: Well, if they wanted your opinion, they'd've asked for it, wouldn't they?
TRAINER ONE: Help me out here. We've spent millions training this kid and now we're going to put a freshness seal on his head?
TRAINER TWO: Yes, and we've got to do 40 by the end of the week. Now get the needle ready.

I mean, come on. Right there we've crossed the line into Cosmic Stupidity of the Highest Order. I'm sorry, but if you're training master assassins, the last thing you're going to do is put an identifying seal on them that everyone's going to notice. Of course, no one ever notices the fact Agent 47, nor any of the other hired blades, has a goddamn proof of purchase seal in plain sight on the back of their heads. This is just dumb.

Anyway, despite having an even worse disguise than Clark Kent, Agent 47 is very good at what he does. He is so good at what he does that he has come to the attention of Interpol and various Government agencies. Interpol is annoyed with Agent 47 because he's going around killing people and causing property damage and assaulting customs officials. Various Government agencies like Agent 47 because he's a subcontractor, and allows them to do their work without having to pay the salary and benefits associated with full-time help.

We learn early on in the film that Agent 47 has been hired to do away with the President of Russia, who is not Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. He does so impressively, yet we soon learn he has not killed the President, but rather a body double. Or vice versa, I couldn't tell which. Anyway, Agent 47 realizes he has been set up and now has to escape a rather nasty situation.

Into this mix comes the intrepid investigators from Interpol -- which represents our second Cosmic Leap of Stupidity. This is because Interpol, being an international agency, has no power at all. About all it can do is ask really nicely for people to keep an eye out for nasty criminals operating across borders, and even then it's a crapshoot. Yet here we have Interpol agents rushing about and giving orders to -- wait for it -- the Russian FSB.

Now, in real life, this would be the end of the movie, because the FSB officers would shoot the Interpol guys and send a mesage back to Interpol HQ saying, "Oops." Yet through the entire film the Interpol guys rush about and try to catch Agent 47, whom as we noted has a giant frickin' UPC code on the back of his head.

Agent 47, meanwhile, realizes he has been set up and absconds from the scene with the girlfriend of the late/not yet dead Russian leader, who for some reason is in St. Peterburg and not Moscow. This leads to a variety of implausible chases and fist-fights and explosions. Along the way, Agent 47 manages to dispatch several of his targets to Hades in a variety of inventive ways. He then sets in motion an elaborate plan to kill the Russian president, who may or may not be a body double, and the President's scumbag brother, who is engaged in the traditional Russian profession of arms-dealing. This eventually leads to an enjoyable scene in which a helicopter gunship strafes a cathedral. The triumphant Interpol investigators capture Agent 47, who then escapes, thanks to the benificence of his friends in the American Government. The movie ends with Agent 47 cleverly faking his own demise to fade back into the shadows.

There are a lot of negative things one can say about this movie, even if it wasn't horrendously bad in terms of its acting. The plot was stupid. The script was stupid. The idea was stupid. Oh, and the bar code bit? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Quite frankly, the whole thing reminded me of that story a while back about the crazy Canadian guy who got charged with killing a bunch of people, yet was let into the United States with a blood-encrusted chain saw. It's entirely possible Agent 47 could have gotten away from The Powers That Be's notice one single and solitary time, but beyond that, the guy was going to end up in a cement mixer.

It's a shame this movie didn't end up in a cement mixer, but was instead greenlighted with a reported $70 million budget. It has thus far returned $8 million, according to Box Office Mojo, in the past two days. Perhaps when all is said and done, the only folks taking one between the eyes will be those who bankrolled "Hitman."

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at November 24, 2007 03:42 AM | TrackBack
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