Hitman Xavier Gens

Hitman Xavier Gens
Hollywood has always been able and, manifestly, happy to turn out derivative product even in the absence of any particular source material from which to derive. But with videogames added to the mix, the derivation business is a whole lot easier than it used to be. Witness the latest console-to-screen transfer, Hitman, which, while more accomplished than, say, Doom or the Resident Evil franchise, still can’t rise above its station as a handsomely mounted amalgam of the easiest to clone elements of worthier efforts.

An opening montage tells of an ascetic, monkish lab/fitness camp churning out bald, possibly genetically goosed assassins. Run by a shadowy organisation called, um, "the Organization” — the SMERSH/KAOS golden age of bad-guy branding is officially behind us — little is revealed about the enterprise except that they somehow swung a great deal on repurposed Dark Angel/Alias sets.

Fast-forward to "Number 47” (Timothy Olyphant), the Organization’s prize pupil, still bald, and now also sporting a large barcode tattoo on the back of his head. (Vin Diesel was the original lead and still takes an executive producer credit, which may explain why 47 doesn’t, you know, let his hair grow out.) When a hit on a western-friendly Russian politician goes mysteriously awry, a panicked 47 goes off the reservation and, in the first of many Bourne Identity riffs, is hunted down by his own bald, barcoded brethren.

Accompanied, à la Bourne, by a temporarily unwilling Slavic proto-love interest — here, Olga Kurylenko as a kohl-eyed gamine/hooker with a heart of gold and an apparent allergy to brassieres — 47 must find answers while dodging not just the Organization’s troops but also Dougray Scott in the Inspector Javert role as a chain-smoking, 47-obsessed Interpol bloodhound.

A newly buff Olyphant, continuing the mid-career course correction that saw him play chief wing nut in the fourth Die Hard, is capable but miscast. While fine with the balletic, Woo-influenced guns’n’swords ninja business, he never manages to suppress the kind of nuanced intelligence rarely seen (one imagines) from guys grown in test tubes.

In the end, 47 doesn’t really go soft, or find the usual kind of redemption — he’s whacked too many for that — but just follows his self-interest in a new, sequel-ready direction. Assuming that Deadwood is really dead and that Diesel doesn’t want the gig back, Olyphant might well join Matt Damon as an improbably Bourne-again, franchise-spinning action anti-/quasi-hero. (Fox)