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Movie Review: Hitman - Agent 47

Hitman: Agent 47 is a video game adaptation from up-and-coming director, Aleksander Bach. While explosive and visually stimulating, this action thriller starts with great promise and then becomes increasingly dull as we try to connect with stilted performances and insubstantial characters.

The first Hitman movie starred Timothy Olyphant and while only serviceable is still better than Hitman: Agent 47. The latest installment incorporates more elements from the video game in terms of stealth, disguise and swift kills. It also turns our cold-blooded killer into an Agent Smith meets Terminator style anti-hero, which is quite a smart and refreshing approach.

Rupert Friend is an interesting choice to play Agent 47 and while he may not be perfect for the role, it works. Initially, he's observed from a distance, keeping the character aloof and enigmatic - much like the video game. His co-star, Hannah Ware, is beautiful but for all intents and purposes could have been wearing a mask. She has the looks, but is inaccessible and robotic, something that hinders us from truly embracing the story. Zachary Quinto is a welcome addition to the ensemble, but casting the current Spock when you're in desperate need of a life-like human just douses the flames.

Hitman: Agent 47

"...I played A LOT of Duck Hunt as a child."

Hitman: Agent 47 looks the part with its stylish visuals, explosive action set pieces and handsome cast, but it's just too bulletproof. The characters are icy, invincible and dead-eyed to the point that they may as well have used the video game artistry. The dopamine levels are low, despite various attempts to spice things up with creative and unintentionally funny kills. Hitman: Agent 47 soon becomes a series of routine challenges on "easy" as the bad guys line up to be skewered.

Even the CGI seems to be stretched thin at points, blurring the line between a video game, which actually seemed more realistic and the suspended reality of a live-action Hitman. Video game adaptations have their issues and many were hoping this one would have overcome many of the flaws of the original Hitman, however it seems like more of a money-spinner with Audi showcasing almost as many cars as Mercedes-Benz did in A Good Day to Die Hard.

Without any substance: a connection to the characters, a serious challenge to overcome or an engaging story to lean back on, Hitman: Agent 47 is all about the eye candy. While Hannah Ware and her leading men are good-looking and the visuals are slick, this thin veil doesn't hold our attention long and it gradually becomes an exercise in patience, which is further hampered by the film-makers attempts to subvert some poor casting decisions.

The bottom line: Dull

Talking Movies with Spling - Mr. Holmes, Impunity and Beyond the Reach

Spling reviews Mr. Holmes, Impunity and Beyond the Reach as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

Movie Review: Schuks! Pay Back the Money!

South Africa's most famous prankster is at it again in Schuks! Pay Back the Money! While the cheap movie trailer lowers expectations, the actual film isn't quite as bad... making a reasonable flipside to Schuks! Your Country Needs You. While we thought comedian, Rob Van Vuuren, was being groomed to become "son of Schuster", giving longtime companion Alfred "Shorty" Ntombela, a run for his money - neither return for Schuks! Pay Back the Money! Instead Schuster is essentially flying solo, playing off Desmond Dube as the dubious Sports Minister, who cuts a deal with Schuks after he loses the actual Currie Cup.

Schuster is commissioned to film a documentary showing South Africa in a positive light instead of paying a R1 million fine. While the word "documentary" is used quite loosely and the thumbsuck fine for losing the holy grail of SA sport is more of a bribe when you consider Schuster's box office history, it all fits in the cartoonish world of Schuks. As usual, the over-the-top story concept and characters are just there to connect the candid camera sketches, but its so painfully lame and void of genuine laughs - you wonder why Schuks didn't rely on animation, or just introduce each sketch as himself.

Schuster's realised his strength is in candid comedy, returning once again to the very thing that launched his film career. In many ways, each of his films represents a slice-of-life and time capsule for the state of the nation in its most transitional phases. While criticised for "blackface" and lauded for opening weekend takings, Schuster's films have never really discriminated when it comes to laughs, making every South African susceptible to a bit of Schuks! mischief.

"Gansbaai, now famous for shark diving and bottle store brawling..."

While he looks somewhat melancholic in the painful live-action cartoon reality he and his candid camera comedy are embedded in, he's more than up to the challenge of playing a host of characters including: official, judge, TV anchor, tycoon, producer, chef and parking attendant. The prosthetic make up is almost as convincing as Schuster's unflappable performance and protects his face and identity. He's instantly recognisable after decades of pranking South Africans and who can blame him for wanting to keep his jaw intact from the odd klap? It does feel like he's hit the camera in the ceiling and perhaps it's time Schuster took on a dramatic role to mix things up a bit.

Schuks! Pay Back the Money! pokes fun at South Africa as service delivery gripes are targeted: bottle store restrictions, portaloo toilets, Eskom "starter packs" and a court appointment for Robbie Wessels line the thematic comedy. Although, it's not all about government woes with some hilarious gags involving recording studios and a Chinese bigwig. Schuster's never shyed away from provoking his marks to fight-or-flight, but has moved to prodding entire communities and stadiums in his latest films. You sense an overall frustration with authority from South Africans, whose responses are often just as audacious as Schuster's larger-than-life characters.

Just like the Step Up series, you wouldn't go and watch a Schuks! movie for the acting or story. The main attraction is laughing (not dancing) and in a very serious South Africa, belly laughs are worth sitting through a few dumb and puerile story transitions. Schuks! Pay Back the Money! features some edgy and funny candid camera comedy and some rather irritating interludes, which makes it a mixed bag... one that you'll probably enjoy if you liked Schuks! Your Country Needs You.

The bottom line: Lopsided

Movie Review: Impunity

Impunity (Freedom from Punishment) is a South African outlaw romance thriller based on a story by Trish Malone and adapted to film by director Jyoti Mistry. We trace the exploits of a love-struck, ultra-violent, on-the-run couple, who are connected to the murder of a politician's daughter, as Impunity tries to get by on titillation and experimental style.

This film is charged with violence as our "Natural Born Killers" meet at a bar, kill the abusive owner after a scuffle and then seem to drive each other into a primal, sex-fueled cross-country rampage. We're whisked from beautiful Kwazulu-Natal shores to hedonistic mayhem, as the visuals move from poetic-to-pornographic.

Impunity starts like Blue Lagoon with its determined and fearless co-leads, Alex McGregor and Bjorn Steinbach, arriving on a deserted beach only to engage in a sexual act, which will quickly determine whether you'll continue watching or not. While at first somewhat innocent, we soon realise these "nature-loving" co-conspirators are actually blood-spattered killers. Impunity gathers momentum as this love story turns Bonnie & Clyde ugly.

Alex McGregor carries the pretty-yet-dangerous tone of the film in a disconnected performance as Echo that parallels aspects from Scarlett Johansson's role in Under the Skin. While borderline exploitative, she does what she can with a mysterious character who doesn't seem to become any clearer with time.

Bjorn Steinbach rides shotgun to McGregor as Derren. He completes a handsome couple, but also suffers from vague out-from-the-cold characterisation. Their on-screen synergy propels Impunity, but keeps us at a distance as we never feel any closer to connecting with their animalistic personalities.

Impunity Movie

"Damn it woman, I said the red wig."

While Mistry seem intent on tapping into, and making a comment on South Africa's culture of violence and questionable justice system with CCTV footage, the script is underdeveloped and doesn't have enough weight to complete this thought.

Our lead characters have very little history or substance, making it difficult to figure out what's really motivating them. We're always on the outside and just as their trail of life juice and blood seems to evaporate, we're handed over to the authorities as the story shifts gear and introduces a political angle as two detectives also try to figure out what's going on.

Desmond Dube and Vaneshran Arumugam arrive on the scene to add some experience and story glue as two detectives, but take over to the point that Impunity could have gone for a The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby multi-perspective format.

Impunity has bite and potential, drawing on our country's beauty, themes of criminality and a classic thriller concept, but it's thwarted by "documentary" style camerawork, major perspective shifts and awkwardly gratuitous exploits. To make matters worse, it comes in the wake of Andrew Worsdale's much more convincing and grounded, Durban Poison.

The bottom line: Feral

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