A movie for every day of the year – a good one



26 June


First barcode scanned, 1974

On this day in 1974, a packet of Wrigley’s chewing gum became the first product to be scanned by a barcode reader for commercial purposes. The so-called Universal Product Code had been in development since the late 1940s, when Bernard Silver, a Pennsylvania graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology had overheard a local supermarket owner bemoaning the fact that there wasn’t a system for automatically scanning items through a checkout. Drexel went to work, first using ultra-violet inks (they faded), then Morse code in which the dots were stretched to become lines, fatter ones being the dashes, thinner ones being the dots. Essentially, this is the system in use today, one hashed out by 1949, though there wasn’t affordable technology then to read the codes. Silver and his co-researcher Norman Woodland offered their patent to IBM, who didn’t offer enough money, the pair thought. Instead Philco bought it, who then sold it on to RCA. Meanwhile, coming from the scanner direction was David Collins, who had been working on a system for identifying railroad cars as they passed through certain checkpoints. Using blue and red reflective strips to act as a six-figure identifier, Collins’s system worked well enough for a New Jersey toll bridge to request something similar to log cars. Then the US Post Office asked for one for its trucks, and a pet food company, Kal Kan, asked for one for its cans. Collins decided to branch out, forming Computer Identics to work on the solution to a fast and error free reader. He came up with helium-neon lasers and a mirror as a solution. The US’s National Association of Food Chains brought the code and the scanner technology together and rolled out the barcode system nationally. However take-up was slow. By 1977 there were fewer than 200 grocery stores using it. But once it was shown that stores that used the barcode tended to have significantly higher profits (because the codes allowed them to have a better overview of their stock) there was a rush to adopt.




Hitman (2007, dir: Xavier Gens)

Many films are derived from computer games, but Hitman really makes no bones about it. Following the titular hitman, a cypher with a bald head bearing a barcode tattoo, as he blasts through one shoot-’em-up situation after another, Hitman is either an exercise in pure style, or a prolonged drag, depending on your attitude to console culture. Certainly Timothy Olyphant looks the part as Agent 47, a gun for hire whose upbringing – by an agency called the Agency, in some remote special ops orphanage – has uniquely prepared him for a life of repeated brutal assassination. As with all hitman films, we don’t join him to witness a series of flawlessly performed executions. Instead we pitch up at the point where it either goes wrong or he gives up or he gets killed. Or maybe all three. Avoiding obvious spoilers, what can be said is that Agent 47’s normally impeccable record is tarnished early on, as a hit against the Russian president goes wrong, it appears, which means he’s not just got the Russian secret service bearing down upon him, but his own guys, who don’t have much tolerance for failure.
It’s a chase movie, in other words, though it pauses as Agent 47 comes across a moody prostitute who has been held captive by the president’s drug-dealing (of course) brother. The prostitute is played by Olga Kurylenko, and whatever you might think about her acting abilities, there is no denying that Kurylenko is born to play a woman men will fight over. The two of them hook up, they run, they are pursued. At some point the woman offers herself to the man, perhaps more graphically than some puritan souls would wish. These early scenes between the two are fascinating because we’re watching a man trained to act like a machine realising there’s more to him than a termination program.
But never mind the emotion, what about the action? There’s lots of it. Lots. And the body count is relentless. Personally, I found this kill, kill, kill, approach strangely refreshing, liberating, as if James Bond had been released from laboured quips, raised eyebrows and unnecessary set-ups to just do what he does best. It lends the film an edginess that many films of this sort lack. We’re in the melee with our man, quick-cams to some extent borrowed from the Bourne films which, let’s face it, are at least partly inspired by video game swivels. Dialogue is minimal, peremptory, Olyphant and Kurylenko both understanding that their roles are subservient to the propulsive drive of the enterprise, to keeping it video-game real. Turn the music down if you must. It has an arcade game clamour that is entirely in keeping with the ambience director Xavier Gens is after but does start to grate after a while. And ignore Dougray Scott as Agent 47’s control. No one is sure what to do with him. He almost has a personality, for god’s sake.



Why Watch?


  • Another fascinating film from talented Xavier Gens (Frontiers)
  • Olyphant and Kurylenko perfectly cast
  • Laurent Bares’s nervy cinematography
  • Jacques Bufnoir’s brilliant production design


© Steve Morrissey 2014



Hitman – Watch it now at Amazon





4 thoughts on “Hitman”

  1. Let's keep this short and sweet. If you enjoy the video games, you will more than likely enjoy the movie. It's very easy to follow, the acting can be downright terrible at times (but very solid from Olyphant who was a GREAT choice to play Agent 47), the special FX are loud and neat to look at, there's lots of explosive action-packed gun fights, and the hot chick gets naked. The only thing I have against the film was that it was a little dull and awkward in the beginning, but it picked up about 15 minutes in and kept it rollin' until the ending. Oh, and the hot chick gets naked.

    You want to go to the movies and have a discussion afterwards? Go watch "Lions for Lambs." You want to go have a fun time at the movies with your friends? Check out "Hitman." Word on the street is there's lots of blood and explosions (and a hot naked chick).

  2. As contradictory as it may sound, finding a good mindless action movie is actually a rather challenging task. Luckily we live in a world where adapting stories and characters from mindless action video games is commonplace, and the creators of the Hit-man movie have gone to great lengths to showcase plenty of the blood, bullets, and babes requisite of a proper translation of the popular assassin adventure.

    Raised to be an elite assassin, Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) carries out jobs for a mysterious organization and for a price. When his employer sets him up in a political assassination attempt, the hit-man must uncover the leaders behind the conspiracy while simultaneously protecting a sassy prostitute and being hunted by both the Russian Secret Police and two determined Interpol agents.

    Wasting little time with a tedious back story, (and thankfully straying from contrary religious tones as suggested by several trailers), Hit-man jumps right into the plot, full of political conspiracies, secret agency machinations, police investigations, and other reasons to have a gunfight in a crowded location. While those unfamiliar with the source material may question Agent 47's origins, it's actually rather commendable (and practical) to forego such setup and just plunge directly into current events with only the accepted knowledge that our antihero is the most skilled of killers. That being said, the story does convolute itself with excessive setting changes and rehashes of political thrillers mixed with revenge mysteries, but the plot never interferes with that which is most important – the action.

    Several unique scenes of bloodshed find their way into Hit-man, and as expected the body count reaches an impressive sum. While not overloaded with meaningless violence, a few sequences stand out as attaining just the right amount of machismo cool, most notably the decimation of a drug lord's domicile and a four-way elite assassin duel apparently inserted to mimic the combat abilities present in the game. At a few points throughout the actioner it becomes evident that everyone involved is trying a little too hard to evoke awe, but some fast hand-held shots and a few guns pointing at the screen later, all is forgiven.

    Though Timothy Olyphant is likely not the first actor to enter one's mind on hearing of a Hit-man movie, he accomplishes the surprising feat of impressing upon the audience that he is indeed Agent 47. Plus the sharp black suits with red ties don't hurt. Relative newcomer Olga Kurylenko, who exhibits an appearance resembling a cross between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sophie Marceau, was also a wise choice, especially to tease the viewer with another staple prominent in the Hit-man games.

    Hit-man successfully retains the necessary seriousness inherent in the subject matter and while it rarely covers new ground in the action-adventure genre, it also never slips into silly mockery (and it still provides plenty of references to its video game roots). Sacrificing story for style and bloodshed is much appreciated here, and entertainment of this nature is a rare treat over those that try too hard to be that which they are not. Hit-man doesn't indulge itself in such a charade and the result is a fun and sexy romp through the world of professional carnage.

    – The Massie Twins

  3. This by far is the best video game adaptation movie I have ever seen. It stayed mostly true to the games but instead the agents were orphans instead of clones. There were many great action scenes and nods to the games, such as Agent 47 stealing various outfits, his weapons and his odd ways of killing his targets. the movie reminded me of an all new game in itself.

    Not to mention Nika (Olga Kurylenko) was amazingly HOT in this movie and has various topless scenes which made me happy 🙂 and she wasn't a bad actress either. I think Timothy Olyphant was THE perfect Agent 47 and captured the character perfectly I would definitely see this movie multiple times!!!!! I highly recommend this movie to fans of the video games or if you love action movies altogether!!!!!

  4. Being a big fan of the Hit-man games, I was fairly worried when I heard that they were going to make a movie based on it because movies based on video games don't tend to be very good movies…

    But after seeing it last night, I must say I was pleasantly surprised. It was actually quite a good movie. It may not win an Oscar or anything, but it's amazing to see Agent 47 up on the big screen. Timothy Olyphant does a surprisingly good job of portraying him too.

    The love interest is a bit awkward to anyone who knows Agent 47's nearly complete lack of emotion in that department, but despite what the trailer may lead you to expect, it really doesn't go very far outside of what you've come to know in the games (and what happens when she tries to seduce him is absolutely hilarious and very much in the Agent 47 tradition).

    It is indeed a violent movie, and 47 is as cold-blooded as you'd expect him to be. Seeing it tends to make me wish other movie heroes had the same level of guts, just to shoot the bad guy in the face instead of letting him live or anything silly like that. The fight scenes with the other assassins from the Agency are also very well done and quite a treat to see.

    All in all, it's quite a good movie. Definitely worth paying to see in the theaters. Hopefully there'll be another one!

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