Revisiting Hitman: Agent 47, and its flaws

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Hitman: Agent 47 was one of the movie adaptations that were considered to be a disappointment to the fans. One of the biggest criticisms directed at the movie was the fact that it was not done in the spirit of the game. Now, I have never played the game, but I do know that it is a stealth game involving an assassin whose existence cannot be proven; he is like a ghost. Therefore, when the Hitman: Agent 47 movie was made to resemble a rather typical action movie, an opportunity to make a movie that stood out was lost.

Don’t get me wrong; I liked the movie despite its flaws. The acting and action were decent, with bits of interesting parts here and there. It wasn’t terrible, in my opinion. It’s just that it’s an adaptation of a popular game with an interesting premise, and the movie could have been elevated to the next level, had more thought been put into writing the story. In this article, I will discuss the weaknesses of the storyline in relation to the spirit of the game, and some changes that could improved the movie. Remember, the point of the game is to be stealthy.

Let’s start with the scene that you can see in the trailer. Here, we see Agent 47 getting apprehended at a security checkpoint because he walked in with guns on him. In the movie, his target Katia van Dees was held in the embassy building. Agent 47’s plan involved getting himself arrested, chained to the interrogation table, and through some convenient plot setup, frees himself and masqueraded as one of the security personnel of the building. Look, it was supposed to make Agent 47 look cool (and I admit, it does), but his actions doesn’t make sense in the context of the game.

For starters, he was supposed to be a hidden, silent assassin. That was what made him so formidable. Exposing himself like this is not only uncharacteristic, it made everything more complicated. I am confident he would have freed himself one way or another, but why even get arrested? Why not silently infiltrate the building? This is especially in light of the beginning of the film, where he demonstrated phenomenal skills and intelligence against a more organized team in a more secure facility, so we have no reason to believe that the embassy will be an obstacle to him. He was also aided by the fact that the embassy officer doubted Katia’s testimony (and sanity), on the account that there was no proof of his existence. He could have just sneaked into the building, put on a uniform, avoid or disable the cameras, avoid being seen, and find Katia. It could have been a thrilling sequence that confirms his capabilities to remain in the shadows, with the bonus fact that if he pulls this off, Katia’s disappearance or any resulting casualty will be blamed on Katia. In other words, he could have gotten his target while remaining invisible.

Another example of baffling decisions made by Agent 47 was the scene in the subway, where he followed Katia to a crowded train station. Now a crowded location could have been a good place to blend in. Instead, he stood out like a sore thumb, and even fired some shots in public. If people didn’t notice him before this, well, now they do! More tragic was the fact that he achieved nothing by doing that, unless his aim was to have his face plastered all over the news as a terrorist. A more logical way to go about it will be, in my opinion, to blend in with the crowd and use them as a cover to get closer to Katia. Katia might have heightened sensory perceptions and will know he’s coming anyway, but it just means that all the more, he should be approaching her as inconspicuously as possible.

“But John Smith was there!” Sure, John Smith kind of forced his hand, but it is still no excuse to saunter in like he owned the place. In fact, John Smith had nothing to lose by engaging him in a public place, since his identity is not at the level of secrecy that Agent 47 operates in. Therefore, it would have been better if 47 tried to blend in and shadow his targets secretly, and avoid fighting John Smith until he can do so at a more convenient location. I would expect a good assassin to know when to fall back and have a Plan B.

All is not lost. There were certain parts where the stealth factor comes in. One of those parts was the segment where Syndicate agents tracked Katia and 47 to the factory they were hiding in; you do get glimpses of how 47 uses stealth against the enemies. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to give us some ideas. Another scene, which utilizes the theme in a more major way, was the part where Katia was made to navigate her way through Singapore’s Changi airport undetected. It was one of the highlights of the movie, in my opinion, not just because it was in line with the objectives of the game, but it also showed the importance of strategy and planning. We could certainly do with more scenes like this. (It is worth mentioning that ironically, the movie told us that what made the agents great weren’t their physical strengths, but their intelligence.)

Another detail that bugged me was the fact that the car Agent 47 used in Singapore was a bright red sports car. Look, a sports car is attention grabbing, all the more a red one. It’s hardly a car one would choose if you want to remain unnoticed. Now it might be a small detail, but it’s jarring because it feels like the choice of the vehicle defeats the entire purpose of Katia taking such pains to avoid detection in the airport. In fact, I was surprised that it took the Syndicate agents so long to locate them, because if they had just bothered to ask around about a red sports car, Katia and Agent 47 would have been found immediately. But then again, the Syndicate is probably one of the most inept organizations ever, which brings me to the next point.

We were supposed to fear the Syndicate, since they were purportedly highly trained, with unlimited resources. Yet throughout the movie, I got the feeling that they never stood a chance against the protagonists. Part of this was hinged on the fact that they had the information required to find Dr. Litvenko, but failed to locate him. When they presented the information to Katia, she deduced his location in matter of minutes, through some very basic elimination techniques. It was supposed to highlight Katia’s intelligence, but given how easily she cracked the puzzle, it convinced me that the Syndicate was just terribly incompetent instead.

It was hilarious, when you think about it. Katia was reunited with Dr. Litvenko in Singapore, where the latter was just sitting out in the open admiring flowers (he likes orchids) in one of the most flowery places in Singapore. It seemed to be part of his daily routine, and you start to wonder, “Why did the Syndicate have such a hard time finding him? He wasn’t even actively hiding!” Someone who indulges in his hobbies and interests while he was supposed to be in hiding couldn’t be that hard to locate.

Further proof of their incompetence can be seen in the underground carpark chase scene, where Agent 47 was trying to escape with Katia and Dr. Litvenko in the sports car. The vehicles chosen by the Syndicate members were motorcycles and a car. Now, motorcycles might have been a good choice in the streets, where there might be tight spaces or alternative routes that they need to squeeze through in the pursuit. Unfortunately, the chase took place in a relatively spacious carpark. This means that not only the motorcyclists had no advantages, they were unprotected against bullets and collisions (seriously, what’s stopping 47 from running them over?). Predictably, they weren’t of much use against Agent 47.             

Out in the streets, Agent 47 was finally stopped at an intersection when the car got anchored (around the 1:08 mark in the trailer). Now, this was probably a good move, because that had Agent 47 and company cornered. It’s time for the Syndicate forces to move in, which they did so… by ziplining down from nearby buildings? Even when I watched the trailer, I have already thought about how it could go wrong. For starters, they are travelling in fixed trajectories, unprotected against a very skilled marksman, at the mercy of gravity. All dead before reaching the ground. Seriously, who came up with these strategies?! The Syndicate had Agent 47 trapped, and they obviously have the area under their control. Sure, you don’t want to harm Litvenko, but why not use snipers? Or at least send in ground troops, where they can duck for cover, or move a little more unpredictably. I get the feeling that the Syndicate fell more out of their own shortcomings than Agent 47 or Katia’s brilliance, and that was unfortunate, because it could have been a very engaging movie if both sides were more evenly matched. In fact, the closest that the Syndicate came to surprising Agent 47 was when they hired random mercenaries to attack him in the hotel.

Despite its shortcomings, the movie wasn’t terrible in my opinion, as long as you don’t put too much hope into the plot or the character developments. It was truly unfortunate that the plot did not receive as much love as it should from the writers and the producers, because it has the potential to be a good tribute to the game rather than another mindless action movie. Source materials should be respected whenever possible, after all (I am looking at you, Michael Bay).

P.S. I was told that the latest Hitman game has just been released recently after I started writing this article, so great timing! Happy gaming to those who are playing!

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