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Hitman (Unrated) Blu-ray Review

In Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s unrated version of Hitman on Blu-ray Disc, Agent 47’s entire back story is told through a quick-cutting montage during the opening title sequence. It’s learned he’s been raised to fight until he escapes those who trained and brandished his neck with a barcode, but not much else. In the blink of an eye, Agent 47 is already an accomplished killer for hire knee deep in a nefarious international plot against him.

One of many potential advantages to bringing the fabled Hitman game franchise to the big screen (and now to Blu-ray) is that Agent 47’s character has the opportunity to be fully explored rather than glossed over. Yet instead of delving into what really makes Agent 47 tick, screenwriter Skip Woods fast-forwards through the character’s past, then takes the safe “angry man” route by intervening his dark ways with a beautiful woman who, through various acts of obvious seduction, brings out a gentler side from the “angry man” that he never realized he had. This lack of creativity renders Agent 47 into nothing more than Jason Statham starring in ___, only without the cool accent.

Timothy Olyphant doesn’t to much more to help bring Agent 47 to life. He’s got the general appearance with his head shaved, and he strikes all the cross-armed poses synonymous with the character. Where Olyphant fails is in his eyes, where a window to emotion materializes that the videogame version of Agent 47 would keep nailed shut. Timothy’s genetically supplied eyebrows and eye sockets just aren’t agitated enough for Agent 47 as depicted in the game, even if his senseless acts of violence are.

Assassin films like The Professional are not easily forgotten, but unfortunately Hitman is. Woods’ convoluted plot involving corrupt members of Russia’s political party and Hitman’s own secret agency is a real bore, plain and simple. Look no further than Eastern Promises for more-realistic Russians worth caring about. Lapses in plot consistency run rampant, while Hitman’s own ability to escape local authorities crosses a believability line that the Jason Bourne films straddled instead. That’s partially why the Bourne films are a franchise, while most such movies — like Hitman — are “one and done.”

The AVC-encoded 1080p video for Hitman runs anywhere between 12 and 22 mbps, which is on the low end for a Fox Blu-ray release. The reason for the low bit-rate is obvious: Fox chose to cram Hitman on a BD-25 disc with full HD supplemental features and lossless audio. Something had to take a hit.

Surprisingly, the video is respectable given the low bit-rate and multiple intense action sequences. Grain is an issue for proponents of squeaky clean imagery; however, clarity and detail beyond the grain is a clear step up from DVD’s 480p capabilities. Blacks are not as deep as found in other new theatrical Blu-ray releases, but they hold together without succumbing to crush or blocking. Overall, this high-definition video presentation is, like the film, average at best.

Hitman’s DTS-HD 5.1 mix is a “hit” though, which is no surprise given Fox’s Blu-ray track record. Aside from a couple instances where rear surrounds came up a bit short, the bass and depth delivered during the action scenes are satisfying and then some. Dialogue is crisp across the entire front soundstage and never fully drowns out when the bullets are flying. For a brief moment, this impacting mix makes up for the video and plot deficiencies.

Fox was gracious in presenting all of Hitman’s supplemental features in full 1080p video, despite none of them being exclusive to Blu-ray. All of them only scratch the surface of their respective focus but manage to do so with little unwanted fanfare and film pumping.

Hitman is the first Fox Blu-ray release to include a 480p copy of the film on a second disc, which can be ripped to a Mac or PC for distribution on small video playback devices (e.g. an iPod). It’s curious that Fox didn’t raise the suggested retail price despite the addition of a second disc, though. Is this really a bargain, or was Fox severely overcharging to begin with?

In the Crosshairs (24:18, HD) is a making-of featurette that draws comparisons between the crane camera angles used in the videogame that were also used in the film. It’s interesting to see these small but important details pointed out that may otherwise have been easily overlooked.

Digital Hits (10:36, HD) probes numerous game-publication editors and journalists, including Adam Sessler of G4TV’s X-Play, to discuss the Hitman game along with 10 of IO Interactive’s developers. Everyone ends up repeating each other with endless praise for Hitman’s revolutionary gameplay, rendering this featurette a pass.

Instruments of Destruction (14:26, HD) offers six extremely short featurettes providing insight into the real-life versions of carefully chosen weapons for the film. It’s worth checking out to see the weapons fired for real.

Rounding out the palate of supplemental features are Settling the Score (5:13, HD), a typical sit-down with the composer; Deleted Scenes (7:57, letterboxed), five axed scenes including a dumbfounding alternate ending; Gag Reel (4:53, letterboxed), the usual chuckles on a missed line; and the Theatrical Trailer (1:50, HD, Dolby Digital 5.1).

I wanted to enjoy Hitman’s in-the-flesh debut as a fan of the game and a fan of assassin films. While the Blu-ray high-def package is admirable thanks to 1080p supplemental features and a kicking audio track, the film holding it together falls apart at the seams. From a rushed script and title character that acts but doesn’t look the part of Agent 47, Hitman on Blu-ray is worth a rental for curiosity’s sake, but nothing more.

Score: 6.8

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