Agent Orange

Underneath the Hitman video game series is an exploration of questionable morality and scientific corruption. Contextually, the keen sci-fi trappings of non-empathetic man-made killers are rich, better fit for cinema than the stealthy, laissez-faire form of the interactive medium from which Agent 47 borrows.

Hollywood studios hardly see the narrative avenues of video games, though. Pixels showed their trite, almost disgusted attitude. To Fox, there’s a name, Hitman, which can be exploited in a flurry of faceless gunfire, desperate titillation, and explosions. Why be smart when there are explosions?

An admirable speed pushes the second Hitman feature forward, immediately docked for shattering the, “show, don’t tell” rule. Narration is implicit about spilling background exposition over the opening credit crawl. A slew of implausible computer interfaces flash colors and flicker as they do… stuff, all sprinting through the first act so a (almost) bald Rupert Friend can rush into action as merciless Agent 47.

In Hitman video games, the well dressed, red tied avatar stalks victims and becomes a purveyor of fine surroundings. There’s a sound meter; make sure no on hears you. Agent 47’s Hitman doesn’t use silencers. His shoes may as well be part of a tap routine. He’s fond of detonations and the ensuing explosions.

Agent 47’s Hitman doesn’t use silencers. His shoes may as well be part of a tap routine.

After a sizable, noisy introduction, Hitman pushes into the rote story processes of a monster movie. The barcoded killer stalks Katia (Hannah Ware) as if he were a werewolf particular about his victim. A werewolf and Agent 47 are instinctive creatures – interesting as a concept (by accident no doubt) but blown in narrative execution. From there it rises into Terminator territory where the soulless killing machine must protect the female from harm – without the wrap-around timeline.

Video game players want non-stop action, so executives and producers think. Gamers play those Call of Dutys, you see. Hitman: Agent 47 goes into a rapid spiel about genetics so it can produce a whirling spree of hyper active, low attention span brawls and shoot-outs. They’re designed to be attractive to the base demographic, but failing. Some are creative, say a clever trap with grappling hooks. The rest are edited to ADHD standards, abrupt and unappreciative of impact or flair. A near-sighted impromptu hotel boxing match may as well be captured in a room which can only fit three people elbow-to-elbow – at least that’s what the camera work indicates.

This world, where killers are formed, branded (identified by serial numbers), and devoid of compassion is dazzling conceptual work. Its placement and style is invigorating, begging to break from interactivity and into other media. Somehow, Hitman can only end up here, reset after a bumpy 2007 outing, sans a concentration of named stars and a first time feature director.

It’s not worth exploring what Hitman fails to do – wondering if empathy determines our personhood or dissecting the ethics involved. Those are ideas. Agent 47 just has guns. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]

Hitman: Agent 47 Blu-ray screen shot 14

Mass appeal is the goal of Hitman: Agent 47. Colors are striking and digital imagery carries the sure quality of unfiltered video games. There are no impediments to fine detail. Close-ups are resounding in their force, resolving high-frequency information with complete consistency. Cinematography is rarely seeking unique focal tricks. Images are direct and resolution is firm to match. Some city exteriors are the slightest bit soft, a minor intrusion.

Primary color richness is a persistent surprise, coordinated to extract a bevy of hues from each frame. A unique setting near the finale (apparently in Germany) blends spacious levels of greenery with vivid yellows, connected by striking exterior lighting. Impact is tremendous., further coupled by dominating clarity.

Shot by shot, Agent 47 impresses. Contrast and black levels work equally, settling into a level of depth which never ceases. Density is enormous. Agent 47 doesn’t need 3D – it makes its own dimensionality. You’ll find no technical fault from Fox whose sizable bitrates mean the material is unable to pose a challenge. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]

A wide soundstage holds the action in this DTS-HD 7.1 track, fond of whipping about through the available channels. Car chases are vivid as the vehicles pass rapidly between speakers, matched only by the bullets which are fond of doing the same – but faster. Stereos feel slightly less involved, if not ignored. A helicopter crash late uses them prominently to mirror the spin of the rotor.

It’s the center channel where information feels weak. Dialog and some action is poorly justified in the middle of the mix, leaving some gunshots left to the subwoofer without support. Dynamic range is hefty, so this is not a matter of volume adjustment.

That aside, the LFE channel is hyper-active, sometimes muddled as it processes the bassy score and action. It can’t keep up and smushes the effects together. Highlights are fine – primed explosions, car wrecks – but when tasked with handling multiple things, there is little variation. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Fox no longer sends screeners so this is based on a rental copy, identical to the retail disc in everything but bonus features. None have been included. [xrr rating=0/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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