A London stage production of a 415-year old play has been proclaimed a “blockbuster” and is trending on social media. Meanwhile, a Hollywood action movie with a budget of thirty million dollars can barely muster a kind word from its target audience.
Guess what these two entertainments have in common?
No doubt it is futile to ask why people keep handing huge amounts of capital to directors like Aleksander Bach (maker of commercials for expensive cars) so that they can churn out yet another “sleekly hollow mélange of dull violence and product placement.” (The reviews for Hitman: Agent 47 have been uniformly abysmal, and everyone in the film seems to drive an Audi.)
Reader, I saw it, and I enjoyed it. Maybe it’s the fact that this type of movie is a novelty for me. Or maybe it’s the obvious, that I’m an incorrigible, ineducable, unrepentant fangirl. But let us not forget that I readily recognized and condemned the heinous offense against taste and reason that was Ghost Rider, Spirit of Vengeance.
My cinema experience with Hitman Agent 47 was delightfully surreal. On a Friday afternoon, the day after the film opened, I was the only person in the theater. (A polite young usher pointed the way to the correct room, betraying no surprise at this middle-aged woman seeking out an ultra-violent gun-and-gore-fest. I guess video games are more ubiquitous than I realized.)
At the aforementioned 415-year old play, every seat was filled and phones were strictly forbidden. (Rumor has it that monitors now roam the aisles with tasers at the ready to punish scofflaws.) But with Hitman I enjoyed a glorious private screening. I pulled out my phone and shamelessly filmed Doctor Litvenko until my battery ran out.
So why did critics hate Hitman so much? It is deeply unoriginal, but that’s true of virtually everything made in Hollywood. It delivers plenty of the mindless, cartoonish violence that its target audience loves. The sets and locations are impressive and fun. It’s stylishly filmed and the acting is on a par with, or better than, the few superhero films I’ve seen. I find video games, fights and explosions unspeakably boring, but the plot of Hitman was engaging enough to hold my interest.
The problem is the feeble dialogue. Why is it so difficult for these guys to grasp that they need to avoid “screenwriters” like Skip Woods, whose other job (according to IMDb) is as a “weapons handling and tactics consultant.” Why do they keep hiring people who take themselves so seriously? Why, just once, can’t an action movie producer hire a writer from, say, The Simpsons?
But I am too harsh. Perhaps I missed the subtle sparks of genius twinkling in the dross. For example, Doctor Litvenko, the scientist who created the genetically modified Agents, withers a rival by telling him “You were always a small mind, Antoine. A derivative thinker at best.” Surely, surely this is a self-parodying, ironic comment on the fact that they are making yet another film about genetically modified super-assassins with noticeable similarities to The Terminator? No? Well, then, what about the fact that Doctor Litvenko is an orchid expert? Surely this is a loving allusion to that other orchid-obsessed genius Nero Wolfe, and not, NOT the result of Aleksander Bach saying, “Okay, we’re filming in Singapore in the Gardens by the Bay. How can we use it? I KNOW! Let’s have Litvenko hang out there because he likes orchids.”
Actually, Ciarán Hinds breathes life into most of Litvenko’s lines. What he has to say is simple and direct. He’s speaking either as a father meeting his long-lost daughter or as a guy who just got tortured by his worst enemy, so his task is to convince us that he is feeling the corresponding emotions. It’s the other actors who get handed the real boners:
Quinto: It’s an honor to meet a legend like you.
Friend: I thought you had to be dead to be a legend.
Quinto: You are dead. You just don’t know it yet.
Friend: You might say the same of this movie.
But wait. I think I see what they’re trying to do. Rupert Friend’s Agent 47 is a soft-spoken Vulcan type who hides his emotions. Zachary Quinto’s John Smith is fiery and passionate, but everyone knows that Quinto played a Vulcan in the last Star Trek movie. Coincidence? I think not! Hitman Agent 47 is about powerful, suppressed desires. The two antagonists try to hide their erotic wishes, but they’re all too apparent to the viewer.
All these guns are there for a reason. They are metaphors for sex, the real subject of the film. Don’t believe me? Consider: it is a film about rival projects aimed at MALE ENHANCEMENT.
Now if scientists actually went about creating a superior breed of human males, do you honestly think they could resist giving them a little something extra? But we’re not simply talking in crude terms about penis size (or even the interesting fact that 47 always carries two guns). Oh no, the screenwriters have created a much more nuanced portrait of these Ultimate Love Machines. There’s a great scene toward the end where a frustrated John Smith tries to force Doctor Litvenko to share the secret: how to make an Agent. Litvenko explains that Smith himself is a failed experiment:
Litvenko: An agent’s advantage is not his body, John Smith. It’s his MIND. You will never be as good as him in bed.
Okay, so maybe I added the “in bed” part. But this movie is perfect for the Fortune Cookie game. Just add “in bed” to everything they say, and you’ll not only have cracked the ultra-sophisticated hermeneutic code of the film. You’ll also have a great time watching it.
You made my day, Linnet! What a fun! Even Shakespeare applaudes! ;O
Thanks Anja 🙂
I might want to add: Audi might still stand on the market – Leonardo (location Glass Cube for the movie) staff 🙂 prefered to go on a holiday without commenting on the movie (although announced)……….
I learned from this movie not to put any stock in reviews…. But it DID look like an Audi commercial 🙂
Let’s call that a Bavarian Co-operation game – you cannot always drive a BMW! SInce Munich is these days dressing up all 🙂 cars/BWMs for Oktoberfest – moviemakers moved a bit more north to Ingolstadt for AUDI. Franz Josef Strauss would be proud! Long live blue sky, green grass and beer! 🙂
PS: Eventually they even did the coulors right – a RED RED RED Audi! James Bond had his BLUE BLUE BLUE BMW back then!
Yes, 47 drives a car that matches his tie, LOL
oh 2 h of Audio watching, that is fun in its own way 🙂 I like cars 🙂 And yes, i like Bond 😉 This doesn’t sound like it, the dialogue is funny!
Your experience sounds almost identical to the one i had with my friend , us 2 watching Into the storm alone in the cinema, delish 🙂 We commented and made fun and just had a great time. The dialogue was equally stunning i may add.
But you are right, a good movie is always made in the writing and not in the special effects. Which is why i rarely step into a cinema these days.
But sometimes we just need some light-hearted, silly fun as long as it stars our favourite actors and it is all good 🙂
I think the “hard-R” action movie industry should hire me as a script doctor 🙂
I’ve never been the only person in a cinema before, but it appealed to my hermit-like tendencies. One companion to watch with and laugh would be perfect!
They had a Bond preview, which I really enjoyed. It has Ralph Fiennes as M, and Ben Whishaw as Q!!
You HAVE to watch Skyfall first! That is when Fiennes becomes M and Whishaw Q and it really was very very good, same director as well which is why i have high hopes for this. I’ve always been a Bond girl! (‘ggg’ i wish!) and i remember when Craig came on board i thought what? why? and now he is my favourite of all by far! Such a softie! 😀 But yeah, watch Skyfall first 🙂 You will like it!
And i will drag myself to cinema for Bond, haven’t been in a while, nothing to tempt me. Well theatre stuff, but that doesn’t count 😉
Gosh, I actually did see Skyfall but I don’t remember Fiennes or Whishaw. I thought Judi Dench played M, but then of course she died at the end so is that when Fiennes stepped in? I think Daniel Craig is fabulous as Bond. Casino Royale blew me away because it was so faithful to the book.
We saw DC onstage in Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” and he was good, but he didn’t have the total charisma he has onscreen. I think he’s a born movie star.
yes Fiennes stepped in as M after Judy died, sniif. Well here in the UK it is thought he ruined a good actor’d career with Bond 😀 Well, some people think that anyway, not majority 😉 But it is true he hasn’t done much else besides Bond in latest years which is a shame… I like his understated and quiet strength
LOL, that is one of the differences between US and UK–here nobody would ever think an actor ruined his career by starring in a Bond film! Fiennes has done so much, if he wants a vacation, he’s very deserving. He did Grand Budapest Hotel not that long ago…magnificent film. But I would love to see him onstage.
i mean Craig 😉 he’s done stage work before and more films too 🙂 Fiennes is busy as a bee, he was spectacular in Mand and Superman and he’s back at the Old Vic this season too, very much looking forward to buying a ticket for the Masterbuilder 🙂
Oh I see! Fiennes in Ibsen, OMG the LSH would love that. Wondering if the bank account can sustain trips to both NYC and London next Spring 🙂
and the Old Vic is a looovely place, so much smaller and intimate than the Barbican, i am still wondering if they will still do theatre in the round or not, not sure at the moment as they are redecorating, the Kevin Spacey era at en end, he was at the last show on the 22nd when i was there..
You’d both love the Old Vic i’m sure of that 🙂 And Fiennes!
Too bad about Spacey leaving–he’s very talented, and another one I’d like to see onstage.
Smaller and intimate theatres are the best! But I did see the value in the big space of the Barbican for the amazing Hamlet set. It’s operatic 🙂
Whilst I may never see the movie, I will certainly play the Fortune Cookie Game. Nice photos of some beautiful men here. 😁
Indeed! The film boasts a number of other men I thought were interesting, including Thomas Kretschmann and Rolf Kanies.
Dorothy Langman said:
#Brilliant and I love that #BadAss Look…Do ya think we could #Clone #CiaránHinds?…or he is a #OneOff!
He’s unique, but I wouldn’t mind if he had an evil twin 🙂