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Originally published Wednesday, November 21, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Hitman" needs a price check

You'd think a bald man with a bar code tattooed on the back of his head would be easy to find. But not Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant), the the stoic super-assassin of "Hitman."

Seattle Times staff reporter

Movie review 1.5 stars

"Hitman," with Timothy Olyphant, Dougray Scott, Olga Kurylenko, Robert Knepper and Ulrich Thomsen. Directed by Xavier Gens from a screenplay by Skip Woods. 92 minutes. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some nudity. Several theaters.

You'd think a bald man with a bar code tattooed on the back of his head would be easy to find.

But not Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant), the stoic super-assassin, slow-motion walker and habitual poser in cool positions. He's The Best At What He Does, and he's been eluding an Interpol agent (Dougray Scott, "Desperate Housewives") for three years as he's racked up an impressive tally of immaculate kills.

Fans of the "Hitman" video games will be pleased that there's more blood spraying in this movie than watermelon at a Gallagher concert. Fans of good movies will find it laughably silly and shot through with bad dialogue that someone should pay the price for, although there's some entertaining action.

Mr. Bar Code comes from a specially bred order of superkillers who are all bald and wear black suits, which makes them look like a pawn-shop sign when three of them stand together.

Something goes wrong on his latest assignment, to kill the president of Russia (Ulrich Thomsen): Why, after a perfect head shot (47 never misses), is the prez later seen alive and well? Looking for the answer (47 always finishes the job) runs afoul of his own people, and then it's pawn-shop time as he takes on other bar-code guys, Interpol and the Russian cops — while protecting a witness, the prez's abused hooker (Olga Kurylenko).

In one dustup that's equal parts ridiculous and righteous, 47 is surrounded and outgunned by three of his brethren on a subway car. As a sporting gesture, they all put down their guns and ... wait for it ... pull the two samurai swords that appear to be standard issue from their jackets.

Olyphant, whose fuming intensity was so great in HBO's "Deadwood," deserves to be a bigger star. After his forgettable role as the villain in "Live Free or Die Hard," this won't help. His exchanges with the hooker are riotously clunky. He doesn't want to kill her and he doesn't want to have sex with her, she complains; she's never seen such indifference (47 is immune to women).

Robert Knepper comes out of it looking good. Known for playing the evil "T-Bag" on "Prison Break," he has a slime-oozing style that's perfectly suited for this cartoonish business as the nasty Russian cop.

"Hitman" was reported to have had a troubled production in which director Xavier Gens got the boot before reshoots. If true, it's the most believable thing about the movie.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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