Hitman (2008)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott
Extras: Featurettes, Alternate Ending, Gag Reel

"Hitman" is the first big-budget American film by French Director Xavier Gens. Based on the video game of the same name, this action film stars Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood", "Live Free or Die Hard") in his first real leading role in a potential Hollywood blockbuster. Like many films based on video games, I approached this project hesitantly, although I was curious due to the fact that I have actually played the popular video games the film is based on, and quite enjoyed them, I might add. Of course films based on video games are kind of a mixed bag, understandably, but many, like the popular "Resident Evil" trilogy have found an audience beyond the obvious hardcore video game fan base it obviously targets.

So, I settled back, somewhat excited to see what kind of eye candy this popcorn flick on Blu-ray had to offer. Although right off the bat I must admit I don't understand why Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) doesn't wear a wig to cover the barcode on the back of his bald head when he is such a target, or why he would want to stand out so much in the first place is beyond me, but who am I to ask questions? It is a video game film, try to relax and let the action and violence wash over you, and try not to think.

A shadowy organization known as The Agency takes orphans in and raises them to be trained killers. This is the reason Agent 47 is nameless. This super secret organization is actually quite popular with most governments when they have a political assassination or other such dirty work done and they want it done correctly and, of course, anonymously. Agent 47 is one of the highest trains assassins on the market, although his people skills are non-existent; He comes off as emotionless and cold, (much like Clint Eastwood's performances in his spaghetti westerns and of course the "Dirty Harry" films). He is also a perfectionist, especially when it comes to killing. His lack of human connection makes him one of the most highly sought after (by those who need his skills and those out to get him) killers for hire on the planet.

When a job comes his way to assassinate the Russian President Belicoff (Ulrich Thomsen), Agent 47 breaks his own rule at the request of his employers and performs what he thinks is a public execution by hiding out at a construction sight and using a long range sniper rifle which appears to completely get the job done. The violence in the film is quite graphic; There are many head shots, much like is needed in the video games. But something goes very wrong this time, and the man who Agent 47 thought he had wiped off the map appears on television still alive. It doesn't take long for our man to realize that he has been set up, and he makes a very daring escape from his luxurious Russian hotel, just barely avoiding capture and taking out 16 Special Forces agents in the process.

The film uses many "Bourne Ultimatum" type flashbacks to reveal something of Agent 47's past, and unlike the video game, we even have something of a romantic interest in a sexy Russian prostitute named Nika (Olga Kurylenko), who has been held in slavery by the Russian President's sleazy dope-peddling brother. It is somewhat amusing watching her try to scratch the surface of this genetically enhanced super killer, and it shows that there is something human underneath his cold and emotionless existence. It's this human element that keeps us watching, although they do nothing more than escape danger and try to stay a step ahead of being hunted down by a relentless and obsessed Interpol Agent named Mike (Dougray Scott).

In this film we have all sorts of action: fight scenes, booby traps and many shootouts, all of them stylistically done. I think that the people who pick this title up and want a mindless action film will definitely get what they were looking for. The ones who love the game will certainly be impressed with the way the film retains the same feel as the video games. And they will certainly notice the painstaking trouble the producers went through to recreate some of the games set designs and action sequences. Although I'm in the minority, this film worked for me, since I went in with low expectations. I think they did a pretty good job making a film version of the PlayStation game.

Perhaps one of the main problems with creating a film version of a video game is much of the references can become lost in translation or just be plain redundant. For instance, the video games "Hitman," "Grand Theft Auto," and especially "Resident Evil," already rely so heavily on movies and television to tell their story that it seems futile to make a movie based on a video game that's based on a bunch of movies.

As for the transfer itself, I have very little to complain about, although I am a little surprised that it is only a single layer 25GB and not the usual 50GB that I am accustomed to with more expensive action and special effects films. Still, the Blu-ray does a wonderful job recreating the film's darker scenes and the level of detail is amazing. This is the Unrated version, I might add. Framed at 2.35:1, the film is predictably very dark at times, and I was consistently impressed with the very well reproduced black levels. Even when it is pitch black, we can still see all of the action. It often has a noticeable three-dimensional pop to it that we are accustomed to (and spoiled by) with newer releases, and the sharpness is dead on. All of the action and fight scenes are very sharp and even when things are moving quite fast, this Blu-ray handles everything very well.

And I'm also happy to announce we have another Fox title with the 5.1 DTS HD Master Lossless Audio included. With all of the explosions and gunfire, this disc is just what you want to test out your PS3's new audio capabilities if you have the proper setup. And let me tell you, this one will shake the house to its very foundation. The surrounds are constantly in use, and the LFE channel gets a serious workout. The dialogue is also very easy to hear, but when this disc really delivers, obviously, are in the action scenes, and there are many. Really, it sounds amazing.

The special features begin with the fact that this is a two disc release, the 'Digital Copy Special Edition' that includes a second disc that is a digital copy for portable devices. I love this feature, as I am somewhat obsessed with my iPod Touch, and even if I don't really have the time to watch too many movies on it, I get a kick having ten movies in my jacket pocket, along with the artwork, and it is as easy and fast as you can believe.

We also have all of the special features in high definition, and that is always a good thing, even if they are standard fare. We have a 25-minute featurette called 'In the Crosshairs' which includes interviews with the cast and crew and everyone explains why they got involved with the project to begin with. 'Instruments of Destruction' runs 14 minutes and is a basic presentation of the many weapons used in the film. 'Settling The Score' is a quick look at the music composed for the film, while 'Digital Hits' is an interesting glimpse that presents us with a look at the video game franchise, it will possibly make you want to play the game. 'Deleted Scenes' are only about seven minutes, but this special feature does include a different version of the finale you may want to watch. We also have a 5-minute gag reel and seven trailers. Altogether a very complete set, all things considered.

So, having played the video game and being something of a fan of the series, I think they did a pretty good job with this film, although many disagree with me. The action is well done and the dialogue is as cheesy as you might expect. If you are looking for a mindless night of entertainment with an action film that is loud (very loud) and don't want to think, this film may be worth checking out for you. The Blu-ray version is certainly the version to get, with superb audio and video and mostly high def special features, Fox has gone out of their way to present this film in a very nice package.