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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Review: Hitman, Xavier Gens (2007)

Starring Timothy Olyphant as a suitably robotic 'killing unit' (complete with barcode tattoo on the back of his head) and with model-cum-actor Olga Kurilenko who appears always dressed in little more than the idea of a dress, and with a screenplay by Skip Woods based on a video game, this is a real eye-opener.

The genre's primary point of reference is The Bourne Identity but the idea of a secretive organisation and a hitman trained to do one thing is as old as the James Bond franchise. The following blurb from the Web site does not appear in the film:

"Bred from the world's deadliest criminals, raised by an exiled brotherhood of the church. His purpose: to rid the world of the evil that infects it. Most believe his very existence is a sin, but others know he is a necessary evil."

We get a representative line-up of 'typical' Russian characters direct from the filmmaker's tour guide. From the fat police officer intent on obstructing Interpol to the glum secret-service agent, from the plausible sociopath who is the elected president to his brother, an arms dealer who surrounds himself with nubile women and opulence.

Interpol is represented by Dougray Scott and his sidekick Michael Offei. But their involvement in the hitman's rampage is not clear. In fact, the plot is as thin and skimpy as one of Olga's head-turning garments.

This criticism misses the point, however. The film is merely a sequence of highly-choreographed scenes where the following elements are of most importance:

  • Virile brandishing of automatic handguns
  • High-tech gadgets designed to kill
  • Ferocious dominance of the woman in all cases by the active male
  • Gritty street scenes in a decayed city (St Petersburg)
  • Opulence of past eras compared to decadence and greed of the present
  • Use of fists, feet, swords and guns to eliminate adversaries

The deployment of these elements is handled capably, however. All credit to the filmmakers. There are many original camera angles and the use of dark tones to create a Romantic gloom is satisfying, especially when it serves to underscore the protagonist's solitary nature. In fact, Number 47 is something of a Frankenstein's monster.

In contrast, Kurilenko is quite happy to appear without a top and it is true that she has nice breasts. Her physical availability and lissome grace are in stark contrast to her ready use of four-letter words as well as Olyphant's mechanistic personality. He seems totally uninterested in her as a sexual entity. It is clear that we see here elements imported from the massive, and growing, online porn industry.

One last criticism, though. The soundtrack on the Web site cannot be turned off. A control is located at the bottom of the screen, but when you click it to turn it off, it merely restarts the music from scratch.

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