Movie News & Reviews

Dreadful dialogue keeps "Hitman" from finding its mark

After watching "Hitman," I've got a pretty good idea why there was nodialogue in its trailer.

It's because it was super, super good.

No, I'm kidding. It was awful! The dialogue, that is, and not themovie, which was merely not good. Actually, it's kind of uncoolaction movies can have an entire trailer free of talking and stilllook like something I'd like to see. Like I'm not going to see amovie called "Hitman" that has Timothy Olyphant, big nickel-platedpistols, and "Ave Maria." They may as well have just deducted $6.50from my bank account the minute they finished shooting. They wouldn'thave found any money there, just a couple moths and the skeletons ofbill-collectors, in fact to see the movie at all I had to rappelIndiana Jones-style into the theater and punch out several ushers,though that part was just for fun. Still, if I had money, they wouldhave been given it by me because they did such a fine job with theirtrailer.

Olyphant belongs to an order of international assassins so good attheir jobs they can run around with barcodes tattooed on the backs oftheir shaved heads without being noticed. He's contracted to kill theRussian president and then Olga Kurylenko -- the single witness to thehit.

Only someone takes a shot at Olyphant when he goes to rub Kurylenkoout, who, it turns out, didn't see anything at all. With the newsreporting the Russian president survived the attack, Olyphant beginsto suspect a setup. On the run from Russian security and DougrayScott, an Interpol agent who's been tracking him down for three years,Olyphant has to unravel the conspiracy while keeping not just himselfbut Kurylenko alive.

What's the word for "Hitman's" dialogue? Crummy? It certainly wasn'tatrocious -- it didn't make me feel sad to be alive -- but it sure madeeveryone who had to speak it look like a jerk. That's kind of sad,because movies like this, they don't need to read like Faulkner'sgreatest masterpiece. They just need to convey enough information toget us to the next gun fight, and if they're really ambitious, maybethrow in a tough-guy quip here or there.

"Ripped off" would be the word (or two) for its action, which wascompetent but felt alternately like cutting-room scenes from "TheMatrix" or one of the "Bourne" movies, which is a little strange whenone of those movies is the world's smoothest choreography and theother looks like the camera was dropped down a well mid-shot.

Yet for all this basic no-funness (and there are other unpleasantelements, too, like a score that never shuts up), "Hitman" neverreally sucks out loud. Maybe it has to do with the subplot aboutOlyphant being the world's most professional killer but the world'smost incompetent lover. The ultra-pro struggling to find his humanityis nothing new, and I wouldn't quite call it subtle here, yet it isunderplayed sometimes (as much as a video-game adaptation underplaysanything) in a way that gives Olyphant's icy assassin a few hints ofdepth.

Which makes it extra too bad everything he and Kurylenko say to eachother is shallow as a plate. Come on, writers! Believe you me, Iappreciate the gratuitous nudity, but at the many moments when herclothes are on and thus my brain is too, it would be cool if shetalked more like a person and less like a feelings-spewing,sympathy-generating machine.

Oh well, you can't have everything.

"Hitman" actually has a lot of potential -- the plot's solid, Olyphant's a good actor with an interesting character, it's got its own little universe with an organization of super-studs to mess around with -- it just doesn't have the ability to execute those things well or the personality to make them distinct. It hits that dreaded middle ground where it's neither good enough nor terrible enough to need to be seen.

Grade: C-

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