Snore, Snore, Bang, Bang
By Noel Vera

Dir: Xavier Gens (2007)

Dear Messrs. Askarieh, Besson, and Gens;

Congratulations on your new film Hitman (2007); it's very handsomely made, and it looks great--you can see every quart of arterial blood and every fleck of brain matter fly across the room and spatter on the faces of all concerned (that's how it is in real life, you know). I love how the bullets make holes in people's heads, like a pumpkin being smashed (compliments to the sound effects crew for the way they capture not only the sound of spraying blood, but the stickiness of it--the way the droplets splash across the skin, slowly expand, stick there (all suggested by sound!)).

And I love how, in that scene with Belicoff's brother, you had my character spot the fact that every gun on that table is fake--I agree with you, if that was really me, I would have seen that right off. You've totally captured every element in my life, exactly the way I live it; except for a few details here and there, I might even call this a documentary, or at least a docudrama. Every shot, every explosion has the ring of undeniable truth.

The man playing me, Timothy Olyphant, is quite good, if not quite as handsome; he captures my complete and utter determination not to show even a trace or suggestion of emotion. In our training, of course, we're given numbers instead of names (hence my number: '47'); more, we're taught to ignore any and all matters irrelevant to our training: fear, affection, anger, passion, humor.

Even the one joke I make--what was that again? Oh yes--"I have a gag for annoying little girls." Did that joke seem lame, a limping target for my traveling companion to effortlessly shoot down? Yes, but that doesn't matter. We are not trained to tell jokes; if forced, we will improvise, but only if forced. Saying something actually interesting, much less funny, is irrelevant.

Perhaps the only scene I disliked is where that annoying little girl (Olga Kurylenko) climbed on top of my character in bed. The insolence of that girl, trying to arouse me! And her lines--did she sleep with the writer, to be given all kinds of "funny" replies to my questions? That scene is what I think people are supposed to take as comical, and I don't appreciate that. It is better off cut, and I urge you gentlemen to have it removed from the picture. It should be dipped in gasoline and lit on fire; it should be sliced into inch-long pieces, dropped in a blender, and shredded. Is my dislike for the scene irrational? I don't think so--it makes me look like a fool.

I remember little girls like her; I despise them, with their soft curves and pouting lips and huge eyes and needy whine; they are more trouble than they are worth. I like hard things, smooth and unfeeling things; why do you think I'm more eager to insert my finger into a trigger guard than I am into nasty little girls?

Perhaps the worse thing about the picture is the suggestion that I actually came to care for her. Me? The best in the business, with an all-time high body count, caring for someone so weak and contemptible? The picture is so close to being a masterpiece, gentlemen, it's so close to being an honest and undistorted account in the life of an actual hitman, it's a pity that you don't make it completely honest, completely undistorted. Little flaws, gentlemen, but the effect they have on me! I almost want to line you all up in a row, handcuffed to your chairs, myself with an automatic pistol in hand standing before you…

Apologies; that was uncalled for. I'd like to point out that the action is largely well done, only Mr. Gens cuts too often in the close combat sequences to see my blocks and strikes clearly, not to mention my stances (Balance, as anyone well versed in the martial arts knows, is all; and balance always comes from a good stance, good footwork.

An action filmmaker who gives due attention to the fighters' footwork is an action filmmaker who knows what he's doing). I love it that they give due emphasis to the different countries in which I have operated in the past--Turkey, Russia, those little dictatorships in Africa (But wait--no China, Vietnam, the Philippines? Didn't the budget allow for it?).

As for the rest of the cast, I congratulate them all; they died handsomely. It's as if their faces and bodies were blank canvases against which I can wield my paintbrush, creating masterpieces. I like to think that, humble skill that I possess, I do have something of the creative spirit in me; I like to think that somehow, in some way, I can be considered an artist.

Of my co-stars, I would especially like to single out Mr. Dougray Scott as Mr. Whittier, the Interpol officer assigned to arrest me. Mr. Scott is a fine actor, and a wonderful boon companion; I would have much rather spent more screen time in his presence, with his warm eyes and soft hands that look at me so intensely (and believe me, I return the gaze!), than I do with that irritating hussy. I remember insisting that you gentlemen write in some kind of wrestling scene between me and Mr. Scott; I find it strange that you would be so unenthusiastic about that--I'm sure it wouldn't have hurt the boxoffice any.

Still--details, details! This production is, due respect to Mr. Besson aside, much preferable I think to his Leon (1994) with its equally implacable assassin (Jean Reno) saddled with yet another whiny little slut (I did not like the ending so much, which is redolent of what I believe is called "irony"--if I had asked for as much iron, I would have it planted firmly between my enemies' eyes).

It is, I believe, much preferable to the supposedly great hitmen films of the past--Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai (1967), whose body count hardly compares to mine; Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961), which is tainted too much with that even weirder element called "black comedy;" Seijun Suzuki's Koroshi no rakuin (Branded to Kill, 1967) and Pisutoru opera (Pistol Opera, 2001) which frankly I just didn't understand. No, this picture is all too easy to understand--loud, wet, uncomplicated, boasting of an astronomical body count. My congratulations to all--I predict it will make millions!

Your humble servant:


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First published in Businessworld, 11.23.07.

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December 7, 2007