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Based on the top-selling, award-winning videogame franchise, the Hitman is a genetically-engineered, elite assassin known only as Agent 47. His hallmarks are a lethal grace, unwavering precision, and resolute pride in his work. But even 47 couldn't anticipate a "random equation" in his life of exactitude: the unexpected stirrings of his conscience and the unfamiliar emotions aroused in him by a mysterious Russian woman. The Hitman is a mysterious and complex man of profound contradictions: He was bred from the world's deadliest criminals, but raised by an exiled brotherhood of the Church. His very existence seems to be a sin, but he wages a quiet war to rid the world of evil. He's brilliant, charismatic and charming — yet reveals little about himself, has no name, and is known only by the last two digits of a barcode tattooed on the back of his head.
For more about Hitman and the Hitman Blu-ray release, see Hitman Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 13, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper, Ulrich Thomsen, Eriq Ebouaney
Director: Xavier Gens
» See full cast & crew
Hitman Blu-ray Review
A complex, bloody, yet boring film hits Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 13, 2008
How does a good man decide when to kill?
I was hardly aware of its existence when Hitman "hit" theaters a few months back. Admittedly, I don't find myself seeing what's coming to the local multiplex on Fridays all that often, instead looking at Tuesdays months in advance in anticipation of the latest Blu-ray releases. My reaction upon seeing a preview for it somewhere was "ho-hum" at best, but being a fan of pointless action movies (of which I had no doubt this would be), I figured I'd eventually give it a watch somewhere down the line. Lo and behold, I now find myself with a screener of it on Blu-ray. Hitman proved the least appealing of a recent batch I received, a batch including the likes of Enchanted, Independence Day, and I, Robot. After viewing those three fine films and writing glowing reviews for each, I was hoping my luck would continue with Hitman. It did, sort of. This is another fine Blu-ray release from Fox, but I was almost literally bored to tears by the movie, despite quite a bit of action, blood, guns, swords, and barcodes, everything a growing boy needs.
Hitman stars Timothy Olyphant (Live Free or Die Hard) as Agent 47, a professional hit man who has been raised since birth to be just that, learning discipline above reproach, martial arts, and the intricacies of modern weaponry from an early age, all the while maintaining a stylish shaved head with a tattoo of a barcode on the back of his neck (reminding me of the tattoos on the soldiers trained from birth in the Kurt Russell action flick Soldier). The story revolves around his assassination of the Russian President, or so we are led to believe. Agent 47 takes the shot and puts a round through the Russian President's nasal cavity from a great distance (a shot that would make Mark Whalberg proud), a definite kill shot, but the President appears on television soon thereafter, claiming only to have been grazed by the shot (akin to a plot device used in the currently-showing Vantage Point, a conclusion I reach only through trailers, having not seen the film). Agent 47 becomes a target for assassination himself (yup, Shooter again), and along with a woman named Nika (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace) whom he was told to assassinate but chose not to after discovering she was merely a set-up to expose him, he unravels a government conspiracy whilst creating a blood trail as long as Russia in his wake.
The film opens with Schubert's "Ave Marie," which also serves as the score to the video game (according to online sources). The music provides a counterpoint to the training of the young people seen in the opening scenes of the film--the majestic music so associated with Christianity contradicts the purpose of the training, that is, to create a cadre of assassins. Filmmakers have often used classical music to either augment a moral theme, or, as in Hitman, to provide a tone of conflict. Die Hard for example, at the moment when the terrorists successfully opened the vault, provided a rousing and booming instrumental score of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," which punctuated the triumph of the terrorists while reminding the audience of the moral conflict that delineates right and wrong. I found the opening score to Hitman encouraging, thinking that I would soon enjoy a film worthy of Schubert's masterpiece. How soon I was to find myself not only disappointed, but mystified.
There's plenty of action in Hitman, but it felt as if the filmmakers just missed, creating a more generic action film rather than trying to do anything special which my parenthetical reminders above suggest. As I mentioned earlier, I was pretty bored throughout, even at a nice and tidy ninety minute run time that's replete with several of the aforementioned loud action sequences, at least one of which had me noting "similar in style to the lobby shootout scene in The Matrix." That's all well and good, but it's one part formulaic and two parts dull nevertheless, and I just didn't enjoy the movie or any of its action sequences for that matter.
I'm beginning to have serious doubts about any movie that comes out that's based on a video game. You'd think that it wouldn't be that hard to make a good one, but apparently it is. Other than the first and third Resident Evil films, I cannot think of a video game adaptation off the top of my head that I've enjoyed enough to want to watch again. Forced to watch a video game-based film other than one from the Resident Evil series, I'd probably choose Hitman, if for no other reason than it makes for a decent Blu-ray experience. Timothy Olyphant does bring the film some credibility, and he's not bad as "the hitman," but unfortunately, other than his performance, which wasn't really anything special, I found nothing to like about the movie.
Hitman Blu-ray, Video Quality
20th Century Fox brings Hitman to Blu-ray with a pretty good 1080p high definition transfer. As always, the movie is framed in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The stylized image of many scenes provide whacked-out contrast and grain galore. Nevertheless, this is a serviceable transfer, but one that is not without flaws. I noted almost immediately the good-but-not-great black levels. They sometimes appear a dark gray rather than true black, and there are a few instances of contrast wavering, especially in those darker scenes. While much of the movie is razor-sharp, several scenes exhibited some softness, especially background scenes, and I felt that fine detail suffered a bit as a result, especially that of inanimate objects such as pillars, walls, and floors both in the foreground and in the background. Heavy grain also appears to spike in certain shots, and while the grain fits in some places, it doesn't in others. For instance, there is a sequence featuring two men talking to one another, sitting at the same table. The camera switches back and forth, showing one actor and then the other. One angle looks clear, while the other angle is plagued with the heaviest grain in the film, not to mention abundant softness and reddish flesh tones. This could have been intentional, but it just didn't fit with the mood of the picture at the time, or in the context of the other, less-than-stellar (but intentionally so) scenes throughout the movie. It's always slightly more difficult to rate these heavily stylized transfers, and in the case of Hitman, the image is just far too inconsistent, even taking into account the artistic licenses of the director. Despite all these quibbles, the image is still fairly good, all things considered. Perhaps had I not screened I, Robot before this I would have been a bit more forgiving. This is not a bad effort here, but it's one of the lesser of the recent Blu-ray offerings from Fox.
Hitman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fox has once again delivered a fine DTS-HD MA soundtrack for this release, but compared to the ones I recently heard in Independence Day and I, Robot, this one seemed slightly lacking, especially in the clarity and fidelity departments. The music over the opening titles, as pleasing and angelic as it is, sounded a bit harsh, as did many of the musical presentations throughout. The movie does feature very good surround presence, especially in the action scenes, but it fails to deliver the niceties of a top-notch track. For example, both Hitman and the recently reviewed Enchanted feature a pouring rain sequence. Whereas in the latter the track engulfed the viewer in a virtual rainstorm, sounding as clear as if you were really there, the former simply sounded like rain rather than actually recreating it, save for the whole wet part. Music enters the rear soundstage with a powerful authority. Sounds like blaring alarms are played through the rear with, well, alarming realism. However, a few surround effects sound phony, such as a few lines of dialogue after the hotel shoot-out early in the film, almost as if they were placed there by accident. Dialogue reproduction was alright, but nothing to write home about, sounding a bit coarse at times. There was also at least one scene where a few lines seemed out of synch with the movement of the actor's lips. This is certainly a very loud track, perhaps one of the loudest I've heard yet, but loud doesn't always mean good. It lacks the crispness and definition of the better mixes, such as those found in the above-referenced Enchanted and I, Robot. Bass is perhaps best described as raucous, especially during a shoot-out in chapter 16. It seemed almost too loud and maybe a bit over pumped. On the whole, this is a very loud, very boisterous mix, and if you're trying to break in that new high dollar sound system, this would be a good disc to choose for that task, but for a crisp, clean, natural, and polished mix, I'd look elsewhere.
Hitman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fox has brought Hitman to Blu-ray with a few very good special features that proved much more entertaining than the film itself. First off is In The Crosshairs (1080p, 24:18). This feature looks at the transition from game to big screen feature film. Hitman, here is described as a "good" film. All those involved are very proud of this movie, and they should be. Even though I didn't enjoy it, it's a competent, fairly well made, if not a bit tedious film that accomplishes what it sets out to. There is a lot of time spent on comparing the movie to the game (including scenes from the game) and a discussion of why director Xavier Gens was a good choice for directing this picture. Watching this feature made me want to go back and watch the film again, and I think I'll revisit it at sometime in the future. Next up is Digital Hits (1080p, 10:36), a feature that examines the history of the game franchise, from its origins in 2000, the parallels between the game and the film, and how fans of the game (I've never played it) will want to look for homages to the series on the big screen. Instruments of Destruction (1080p, 14:26) was my favorite featured supplement. It provides a detailed look at several of the firearms prominently used throughout the film, the safety measures employed in the firearms sequences, and the training the actors received to make sure they knew how to safely handle firearms. Some of the firearms examined are the FN Herstal FS2000 and M-16 battle rifles. Settling the Score (1080p, 5:13) is next, a brief look into the creation of the music used throughout the film with composer Geoff Zanelli. Finally, five deleted scenes (1080p, windowboxed, 7:57), a gag reel (1080p, windowboxed, 4:53), and the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 1:50) conclude the extras on the Blu-ray disc included in the package.
Complimenting a decent array of supplemental features on the Blu-ray disc itself is perhaps the disc's most intriguing feature, the inclusion of a digital copy of the film that can be installed and played on a computer, iPod, iPhone, or other portable device. This copy comes on a separate disc, and an instruction sheet is included with the Blu-ray. It is a 1.07GB file, and I transfered it to iTunes on my MacBook Pro. All I had to do was double-click the icon, which launched iTunes and led me step-by-step through the installation process, including entering a unique 16-digit code. Although I do not own an iPod capable of video playback or an iPhone and was therefore unable to test it on those devices, I was able to view the film in iTunes. The movie played in 2.35:1 with no black bars on the top or bottom. Scrolling the mouse over the bottom of the picture caused a control panel to pop-up. The picture quality was suitable for this sort of playback. I must admit I like this feature, and I am wanting an iPod Touch even more after playing with this feature.
Hitman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hitman is a movie I wanted to like, and despite my affection for the genre in which it resides, I found myself bored stiff throughout. The simple fact that the movie is derivative in so many ways (Soldier, Shooter, The Matrix, and Vantage Point, to name a few) may account for my ho-hum reaction. In fact, the entire opening sequence was lifted directly from the television series Dark Angel. Despite the copious amounts of blood, guns, and explosions, the movie seemed too disjointed with a plot that was overly complex for what should have been a more straightforward, simple, high-octane extravaganza. It seemed like the filmmakers couldn't make up their minds if the movie should be a non-stop, bloody action film, a deep, complex, and thought-provoking film, or an artsy, highbrow movie. There's a little bit of everything in here, and that may be its biggest fault. The Blu-ray disc itself is pretty good, sporting passable video quality, a loud, aggressive, but ultimately harsh soundtrack, and a pretty good array of extras, including a portable digital copy of the film. This is a pretty good package that will please fans of the movie. For anyone unfamiliar with the movie or the video game on which it is based, I'd suggest a rental before purchasing.
Hitman: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with Hitman (2 bundles)
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Hitman Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hitman Gets Unrated Blu-ray Release - January 22, 2008
Fox Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'Hitman' to Blu-ray on March 11th in its unrated form. The disc will feature a massive amount of extras, including deleted scenes, alternate ending, four featurettes, and a gag real. Also included with be ...
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