Monday, December 10, 2007


RUNTIME: 100 min.
RATING: **1/2

The hit-man is named Agent 47, probably inspired from Idea’s new advertisement. He is sparkling-clean bald with a barcode behind his head. The dress code, to be strictly adhered to, consists of the usual pitch-black suit with the tie being the only element where you could bring a little fashion in. He has been the star hit-man for quite a few years, but is now pursued after an assassination in Russia has reportedly gone wrong. He walks around railway stations, stealthily I might add, dodging half-a-dozen rival assassins and FSB agents. He walks around hotel corridors and manages to find planted guns, for both hands, with consummate ease. He also carries a girl-hostage on him. Getting the hang of it? That is Hitman, the latest addition to video game to movie series.
Early on, during the credits, two child-trainees trying to escape from the Organization’s camp are shot dead, juxtaposed by a big banner shouting out ‘DISCIPLINE’. And this is the interesting part, for I’ve always been fascinated by symbolic dressing. A more telling blow with respect to conveying discipline would have been these children shown wearing their suits and ties. I like, pardon me, love ties for they seem to rein in discipline more than any aspect of dressing and that includes black shoes with matching socks. The picture of these bald men roaming in their suits drives home discipline and more importantly order. Something akin to the classic good-white horse and bad- black horse thing. Contrast this with Jason Bourne, a distant and infinitely more talented cousin of our hit-man. He wears all nonsense, always casual and hence he is spectacularly out of order. Or is it the other way round. Anyways, Bourne’s casual attire renders him supremely stealth.
I like the stealth part a lot. Picture this – a super-bald man walking upright in the middle of a railway station, his spine so tight it might as well be a string on a guitar. He is clad in a black suit, red tie and his barcode is begging to be scanned. He is alone, and he’s constantly looking sideways. Agents --- FSB, Interpol, doesn’t matter, for both are paid to do their jobs --- are looking for this bald super assassin. – I ask you now. And it doesn’t matter what you might’ve scored on your IQ tests, if you’ve even taken them, they don’t matter much anyway. Would you, or would you not, bet your money, on the agents catching the bald man. I did. And as it turned out, I lost the bet. It seems the organization, which trains bald men like our Agent 47, doesn’t feel the need for a faculty teaching the art of disguise. And they seem to be doing mighty well, with out Agent 47 stacking up a confirmed kill count of over 100. On the other hand, both the FSB and the Interpol, it seems, desperately need somebody to teach them the art of seeing and more importantly, retain.
I guess that is the deal with all video games I have been witness to. At least the target practice ones. I don’t play a lot of games; in fact now that I count them, I couldn’t get past three. I have always been a believer that books are the best leisurely activity. And somehow I seem to have this notion, a preconceived one that might be false, that games do manage to curb the stimulation of the intellect. Or do they? I wouldn’t know. All I know is, and that is a fact, that the films adapted from these games manage to maintain a supremely low intellect, working in their own silly worlds and catering, often exclusively (Silent Hill), to the gratification/comprehension of teenage experts who seem to be hooked on to these games.
It is this very quest to quench that gratification that tears this otherwise insignificant little film apart. On one end it tries to be (at least the script) something more than the usual dose of turkey shooting by trying to rope in the usual melodramas – lady caught in the heat --- hitman averse to emotion --- hitman melting --- the romance. And yeah, in keeping with the in-thing, it does harbor very high levels of political context, which I’ll come back to later. Speaking of the other end, it feels the obligation for gratifying, violent action. This dilemma strips this film from being a pure guilty-pleasure and it doesn’t end up shaking any emotional chords either. It is pure mechanical stuff, to a degree inferior to the limited number of games I have seen, and it doesn’t score too high on the action scale either. Considering that it is a big-budgeted film, US $70,000,000 IMDb says, the action sequences are a sore in the eye with extremely patchy special effects. The shooting sequences are so amateurish in their final result; I wondered for a moment if IMDb got the figure wrong.
The most glaring evidence of the mess at hand is all the intentional political references. For one, it is not at all a coincidence that the picture is set primarily in Russia; the portrayal of the Russians as an unflattering blend of evil, scheming, inept people is every which way intentional. The villain most probably seems to be a reference to Mr. Vladimir Putin, and his seeming immortality a juvenile tendency to render everything mysterious even viler. There’s a none-too-subtle and extremely ineffective reference to the Moscow theater siege and the infamous use of chemical agent. And then, the CIA (a symbolic reference to the whole of the United States) thwarts an attempt by a guileless Interpol (United Nations) headed by a British agent (Elder brother treatment meted out to Great Britain) to nab our Agent 47. And then, the most glaring of all. The Organization and its agents seem to give out religious vibes, an obvious attempt to portray a religious assassin group against the 11th century Hashshashin, the ancestors of modern day assassins whose primary foe were the Crusaders. As I said it is all immature, especially the jab at Russia, for what is the need for such meanderings. Stick to your game, literally. Turkey shoot. It is advisable not to leap at hoardings one doesn’t comprehend. Maybe, after living under the iron hammer for so long, they need it over their heads to mould themselves back into shape. Maybe we all need. I guess both the cold war parties were fighting for the same thing – power. One achieved it by deception and the other openly. I for one, if given a choice, would take being deceived any day of the week. Of course, minus the hypocrisy. Come on, it is only the means to the end that are differing here.
Is it just me or is our little discussion really wandering into needless territories? Whatever. Hitman is an insignificant little film. Watching it won’t lead you to baldness either which way – tearing your hair or making a new style statement with a bar code on top.

1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

this film suffers from trying to be a little too much like a video game.