Hitman & r & & r & by LUKE BAUMGARTEN & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & gent 47 is an assassin. He has no name because he doesn't need to interact with society at large, other than to murder little individual pieces of it. He was secreted from an orphanage as a young boy, taken by a shadow organization whose sole purpose is to produce the world's best killers. And he was trained to be exactly that.
He took to that training well. It was rigorous and life-long. From childhood, he was taught discipline and how to kill. At first he killed out of fear; over time, he learned to deaden that impulse, killing with precision.
He learned to retire from the world. To live in it but not be a part of it. He doesn't have a false life. He doesn't have a cover family. He isn't activated when there's someone who needs to be killed, because he's always on. When women approach Agent 47 in bars and try to sleep with him (because Agent 47 is a handsome-ass dude) he doesn't seem to know what to do. He's a killer. He knows nothing of love.
No one in the whole world knows the organization that trained Agent 47 even exists, we're told, yet it has ties to every world government. (Think about that for a second.) The organization 47 works for is so monolithic, far-reaching and anonymous, in fact, it is named simply the Organization.
The Organization, it is suggested, is run by nefarious Catholic monks.
Think of all the origin stories of the world's great cinematic spies, superheroes and assassins. Can you think of a single film character with as complex and ridiculous a back story as this dude?
You can't. There isn't one.
That's because Agent 47, played in film by Timothy Olyphant (brilliantly grit-toothed throughout Deadwood; not as brilliant here), isn't the creation of a screenwriter. He's the spawn of a team of videogame designers. That puts him on a whole different playing field. The complexity and absurdity of the average videogame backstory outstrips The Golden Compass? No way. The Matrix? Come on.
It's because in videogames, players don't merely experience the impossible, as they do watching a film or reading a book. They make the impossible happen. Or rather, they manipulate the world, within certain programmed limits, to create the illusion that the player is making the impossible happen several times a minute.
That's why I usually enjoy film adaptations of videogames while still recognizing their deep faults as films. Watching them peels back the fourth wall of our most immersive entertainment experience, videogames, exposing their sheer audacity of concept and their ability to totally suck us in. Despite the fact that the Hitman games have simplistic plots, similar to the Hitman film -- 47 kills the Russian president, but is set up and targeted for assassination himself -- they suck people in. A film, staying true to the videogame concept, repels you.
In short: I'd play Agent 47 at home and I'd probably totally buy in to being the perfect, un-killable killer. Then I'd watch the film, one degree divorced from the absurd character and impossible story, and gape slack-jawed at the ridiculousness of it.
That doesn't make Hitman a good film; it does, though, make it a good videogame adaptation. (Rated R)