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Here we go again; another videogame has hit the big screen. How many times have we been here, in this very position? We play the games, help them to get popular and sell a few million copies, a loyal fan base builds, and then some studio executive has the bright idea that they’ll take it to a director, give him or her a modest budget and expect them to come back with something entertaining. But therein lays the problem. They hardly, if ever, do. Can this latest perhaps right the many wrongs of these troubled video game adaptations?

Hitman: Extreme Edition

Feature


In a word, no. Hitman does not right any wrongs, nor is this the film to finally throttle these flimsy adaptations into the mainstream with any form of success. In a nutshell, it suffers from all the same problems every other video game adaptation has so far:  paper-thin script that wouldn’t even be suitable as tracing paper; corny dialogue that will send shivers down your spine; ropey action scenes that look as if they were filmed for Nickelodeon; MTV-style editing that induces nausea and a conceptual design that seems to offend fans rather than appease them.

I will admit though, Hitman, while a lightweight in the action world, is still perhaps one of the better videogame movies out there. That isn’t exactly saying much, but while it’s extremely flawed and not exactly something you’d watch more than once, Hitman will at least hold your attention... for a little while. Once the opening credits and confusing first scenes are out of the way—in which the story flicks from one location to another faster than a flea leaping from dog to dog,—the action finally settles into something at least tolerable.

But really, this whole hour and half of celluloid is dedicated to repeated, bloody assassinations and not a great deal in between. If you’ve played the game, you’ll pretty much know what to expect from this film. The protagonist is the deadly Agent 47, a ruthless yet efficient genetically engineered killing machine whose job it is to hunt down dangerous criminals. Here, he ventures across Eastern Europe taking down the people he was hired to kill, all the while pursued by Interpol and a hoard of Russian authorities to make his job that little bit more interesting. And as most films like this have to have some sort of love interest, Agent 47’s comes in the form of Nika, a mysterious Russian beauty with more than a few secrets up her sleeve.

Hitman: Extreme Edition
As you might expect though, Nika’s presence in the story is used merely for snatching glimpses of nudity here and there and to try and inject some heart into the otherwise robotic lead. Does it work? Well the nudity part certainly does as we catch more than a few glimpses of her breasts and such else, but as for the film’s lead and his often scary impressions of Keanu Reeves, his heart remains both cold and dry, no matter how much Nika is seen flinging herself in his direction. And to make matters worse, this all culminates in a lazy, half-arsed show of emotion at the end which seems ridiculously out of place given the prior interactions between the two.

What did surprised me about Hitman though was the amount of gore and on-screen violence on show. I expected the film to be a watered-down version of the game, but the filmmakers seem to have been given the green-light for almost as much violence and nudity as was required. It does feel somewhat forced at times, but the harder edge of the game has certainly not been lost in translation to the bigger screen. Fans ought to be pleased with that, at the very least. But the whole affair both looks and feels like a cheap chase movie. It’s almost like a poor-mans Catch Me If You Can, spliced with the grunginess of Leon.

In some scenes it even tries to emulate action sequences witnessed in much better films, to the extent that at one point I could have sworn Agent 47 turned into Neo and waltzed into a certain Wachowski brothers film. This particular scene is practically a frame for frame carbon copy of the infamous corridor shoot-out scene in The Matrix. Even the camera angles and slow motion debris flying in all directions was relentlessly stolen.

I suppose the biggest problem with Hitman is that the game, while credible in its medium, just isn't film-worthy material. It’s decent but it isn’t exactly out-of-this-world fantastic when seen on a much larger screen. That said, none of the other major video game adaptations have been brilliant, even the ones based on superb franchises such as Resident Evil, Tomb Raider and even Final Fantasy. Yet I still have soft spot for all of those, though with Hitman I feel the migration to the big screen didn’t come with the best intentions. At the end of the day this could have been a lot worse, and I suppose given that most films of this nature are absolutely god awful, Hitman at least serves up some short-lived entertainment.

Hitman: Extreme Edition
Video
The film is bland and not exactly mind blowing, but the DVD transfer is perhaps a little more interesting. It’s certainly nicer looking at any rate. Colours are particularly muted in this film, owing to its many dingy and gloomy set pieces, but the image remains sharp and noise levels are surprisingly minimal. Perhaps the filmmakers forgot to add the usual grain effect these sorts films love to employ. Black levels are particularly strong here, and given the material of the film, this only adds to the atmosphere the cinematographer has created. Overall Hitman looks pretty solid, my only gripe is a slightly higher than normal saturation level that can be observed in some of the outdoor shots. As intentional as this may have been, it doesn’t always look good.

Audio
The only soundtrack available on this disc is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 option. It’s probably all you are ever going to find on a film like this, but it’s a good one. Action scenes make full use of the sub, producing a fine, low growl as guns and explosions play onscreen. Directional effects and the centre channel are also well used, offering a solid and thoroughly dynamic listening experience all around. This is a great Dolby track, and fans couldn’t ask for better.

Extras
The first thing I want to mention here, and it’s nothing especially important, is the DVD menu screen—it’s one of the dullest I’ve seen in months. Scratch that, years! There, I said it, I’ve shown how utterly vain I am. While I certainly won’t knock any points off the extras score for this, I can’t help but feel the DVD producer gave his menu designer all of five minutes to come up with this one. You’ll know what I mean when you fire it up. It looks like something you’d have found on a DVD from seven years ago.

Anyway, now that little rant has concluded, let’s move on to the more interesting stuff. First of all, this is a single disc release, and it feels like one too. There’re four making of featurettes, entitled ‘In the Crosshairs’, ‘Digital Hits’, ‘Instruments of Destruction’ and ‘Setting the Score’. These are the run-of-the-mill features found on most generic DVDs that offer a shallow glimpse at the making of the film. To round out the disc there’s a gag reel and several deleted scenes, including an alternate ending. These features are worth watching once, but offer no real reason to come back for seconds unless you’re a die-hard fan of the film.

Hitman: Extreme Edition
Overall
Hitman is a standard videogame-to-movie adaptation that breaks no rules nor sets any new standards. Did we expect it to? No, but we’re still hanging on patiently for the one film that will. Hitman most certainly is not it. It might be a little more mature and well made than some video game adaptations of the past, but it still suffers from all the same problems and, in the general world of cinema, falls short of a worthy action flick.

The DVD itself boasts a pretty impressive image, as well as a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that will give your home cinema a decent workout. There is, however, not much content in the extras department. Overall, this disc is a so-so affair, but it should satisfy Hitman fans and those looking for a low profile action DVD.


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