With two lackluster film adaptations under its belt, the cinematic future of the Hitman franchise doesn’t look very bright. Neither the Timothy Olyphant film from 2007 nor the Rupert Friend vehicle from 2015 could overcome the seemingly insurmountable video game curse, with Hitman earning a mere 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and Hitman: Agent 47 failing to break into double digits with a mere 8 percent.
That Hitman could fail so monumentally twice is somewhat baffling. As a video game franchise, the series feels ripe for a solid and faithful adaptation and it seems, from the outside anyway, fairly easy to accomplish. The bald-headed Agent 47 is one of the more intriguing protagonists in modern gaming and the core mythos is the kind of story that audiences would eat up if presented the right way. It shares the same sort of realistic but fantasy driven aesthetic as John Wick but, so far, the series has yet to resonate with fans. Given that the series has failed so badly twice in a single decade, it’s safe to bet that Hitman won’t get the chance to redeem itself cinematically anytime soon. That fact feels especially disheartening in light of what might have been.
Director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2) revealed on Twitter recently that he once pitched a Hitman movie, but that it was passed on due to Gunn’s R-rated vision. Gunn doesn’t reveal when he made the pitch or anything about his vision, but it’s the kind of revelation that makes fans wonder and shake their heads in shame over what they got instead.
I tried to make a Hitman movie a few years ago. But the producers at the time didn’t want to make it R rated, so they passed. https://t.co/BAToI5lfaQ— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) February 21, 2017
It’s also strange given that both Hitman and the rebooted Hitman: Agent 47 received R ratings, which is the only way a Hitman movie could ever possibly be made. This suggests that at some point between both movies, studios may have considered going the PG-13 route, perhaps blaming the rating on the original movie’s lack of commercial success.
While a softer rating would’ve opened the door to a larger audience, it’s difficult to imagine that a lower rating would’ve benefited the series in any way. Most likely, the tamer version of Hitman would’ve been an even bigger detriment to the series than what was delivered, as difficult as that might be to imagine. But, knowing what we know of Gunn, you’ve got to wonder if studios aren’t kicking themselves for not jumping at the chance.
If only they knew then what we all know now. Gunn has since established himself as a visionary, and it’s difficult not to be disappointed that he never got to bring his flair to the world of Hitman. Given the failure of the series so far, it’s probably safe to assume we’ll never get a chance to see that. But maybe he’ll be willing to try his hand at another video game franchise in the future. It doesn’t take much imagination to think that if anyone can break the video game curse, Gunn is the man to do it.