Singapore looks like a dreamy place to visit. That’s one of few worthwhile discoveries in “Hitman: Agent 47,” a soulless, joyless “Bourne”-movie wannabe. The story has all the nuance of a “first-person shooter” video game. As it turns out, the movie is based on one.
Skip Woods and Michael Finch wrote the screenplay for director Aleksander Bach’s feature debut. This is Woods’s second go at bringing the video game “Hitman” to the big screen after the 2007 film “Hitman,” with Timothy Olyphant in the title role. This time it’s Rupert Friend (“Homeland”), whose talents are wasted in a part where he does little more than look cool in a well-tailored suit.
His character is essentially a robot. Trained as a child to be a killer, his genes have been enhanced to make him smarter, faster and stronger than your average Joe. (His good looks, apparently, are natural.) During the process, he also was relieved of his ability to feel emotions.
The man who created this conscience-free monster, and others like him, is Litvenko (Ciarán Hinds). Since he slipped off the grid several years ago, various people have been looking for him, including members of a nefarious syndicate that wants to use the scientist’s brain power to create an army of similar superagents. That’s right. In the decades since Agent 47 — as Friend’s character is known — was created, no other geneticist has been able to crack the code of how to make them.
The syndicate’s sinister emissary is the prominently eyebrowed John Smith (who other than Zachary Quinto?), who is trying to ingratiate himself with Litvenko’s daughter. If the group can get to Katia (Hannah Ware), it believes it can find the scientist, too.
Meanwhile, 47 has been assigned to take Katia out, which is a shame, seeing as she seems like a nice lady, even if she has no idea who she is or why she can see events before they happen.
And that’s just the beginning of the story.
Of course, none of this matters as much as the action, which, though well-executed, is missing one key element: consequences. Is 47 the good guy? That’s unclear. This leaves little reasons to root for him — other than his super-chill demeanor, his ability to use two guns at once and his impeccably defined cheekbones. We don’t even know his motives, especially once he defies orders and rescues Katia from John.
The movie — which looks and sounds like a more brutal Bond knockoff — is at least consistently stylish, though its tone is less assured. While the script makes some attempts at the quippy one-liners typical of today’s action movies, they’re delivered with mechanical inelegance, mainly by 47 and Katia. Recognizing where the humor could have been is more painful than if it had never existed at all.
But never mind all that. Singapore — one of the many places the film takes us — looks amazing. (We learn each new location via on-screen titles, accompanied by the beep-beep-beep of a computer.) One of the scenes set there, inside the glass enclosure of that city’s futuristic Gardens by the Bay park, features a laughable attempt at sentimentality. Don’t underestimate the power of distraction. Somehow everything seems slightly less idiotic inside a high-tech greenhouse.
R. At area theaters. Contains strong violence and language.