Genre: Action, Crime
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper
Director: Xavier Gens
Dreading the infamous “VG Syndrome;” that near faultless tendency for films made based on a game, even with the largest budget and themselves best of intentions, turn into something that if you're really lucky won't completely soil the memory of the game as well as waste your time; a rule of thumb that to my memory has only been defied once with the ongoing “Pirates of the Caribbean” series of films extensively borrowing from the “Monkey Island” series of games. Perhaps it was the games original format that lent itself to the re-imagining, the game reliant on the plot and characters – both elements essential to a film – that has also meant that this film can succeed where others had faltered.
The original game already had a backstory for our protagonist, a realistic character already there to be manipulated and placed into various situations. The games too, for anyone who's played them, are very distinct in the manner they unfold in making use of deception and disguises, following no set path complete each mission except to take out the target and get out, whether using subtlety or by going in guns blazing. With the mission to assassinate the Russian president, Agent 47 quickly finds himself wrapped up in a political conspiracy that sees him being hunted by both Interpol and the Russian secret police all across Eastern Europe as he struggles to learn the truth and complete the contract.
It was always the set-up that made the games successful, not the action itself; I remember sneaking poison into a man's drink when he wasn't looking, or pushing a weight onto a guy during his work-out, or of course the infamous sniping from a rooftop, but it was really all about how he got there. Finding a construction worker and stealing his clothes, or sneaking around a back entrance; and then when it all goes wrong and you blow your cover, the sudden change of pace as you struggle to retain control of the events, killing those that have seen you before they can raise the alarm. In an effort to try to satisfy both the action crowd and try to remain as true to the original as possible it seems they tried to strike a balance between these two sides, but it doesn't really work. The action becomes disjointed and the pacing feels off; what starts off as an intriguing subtle assassination sequence goes to pot when he brings out a couple of guns and starts firing off for no apparent reason; he simply 'arrives' at the location to do his work, magically seems to know where his target is heading and further plot holes galore.
But this is after all an action film and the key component of this is the actual action; the choreography, style and frequency of which it occurs, and it's here that he seems to redeem himself somewhat. The cast may not have any stars but they certainly aren't amateurs either; the head of the Russian Police, Yuri, played by "Knepper" now well known for his roles in 'Prison Break' and 'Heroes'; the woman that becomes tied to 47 now a bond girl; the two interpol detectives that remain memorable unknowns – the kind of actors you remember from somewhere but aren't sure where – and the lead role played with a near perfect deadpan demeanour, a cold and calculating manner that has you constantly guessing what he's up to (before snapping out of it and remembering all the plot holes that preceded it) and lending each small subtle glimmer of emotion all the more importance. There's nothing smart or witty to be found here, but it's well acted, features some superb eye candy and contains a variety of action sequences that were better than I expected; I can't really complain too much.