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'Hitman' has all the makings for a bloody action franchise

Hitman (R)

2 stars out of 4

"Hitman" began shooting less than six months ago, and you can tell.

Not quite based on the video game of the same name, it's a quickly slapped together hodgepodge of other sharp-shooting action films. Fans of the video game may voice displeasure with the movie, citing it strays too far from the original concept. For audiences not familiar with the game and looking only for gunfire and pyrotechnics, "Hitman" will make for a passable, if weak, way to kill 90 minutes.

Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant, "Live Free or Die Hard") is a highly paid, emotionless, professional assassin who was raised by "The Organization" to become a killing machine. The agents dress like the "Men in Black," talk only when necessary and sport shaved heads with tattooed UPC bar codes on the back. The reason for the tattoos is never explained, and for a group striving to remain anonymous, this all seems like an awfully stupid way of trying not to stand out.

When 47 completes his latest assignment (killing the president of Russia), he realizes the faceless Organization has set him up and is summarily cutting him loose (something else that is never explained). He then kidnaps the president's lover Nika (real-life fashion model Olga Kurylenko), believing he can pry her for vital information. Not surprisingly, 47 and Nika hate each other immediately - something we know will change before too long. Olyphant and Kurylenko have great chemistry and make for an engaging screen couple, but like with every facet of the plot, the actors are ill-served by an illogical and unoriginal script.

The one thing screenwriter Skip Woods and French director Xavier Gens get right is the current state of affairs in Russian politics, which seems to be inching back to its former Cold War mentality. On the flip side, the Russian characters talk and act like their caricatured counterparts in old James Bond flicks.

Not nearly as smart as the Bourne trilogy or irreverently funny as the first "Transporter," "Hitman" is a franchise in the making that thankfully doesn't pretend to be anything more than it is: a bloody popcorn movie. (Fox)