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Hitmen (and Women) so different from Agent 47

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Killing people for a living? For some, it’s an immoral way, for others, it sounds like a dream come true. The theme of hiring people to end a life – no matter if it’s for money, love, or vengeance – is constantly returning in movies. Some of them present the hitman as an immoral, corrupt individual, capable of anything for money. Others choose a more nuanced approach, showing us assassins with a strong moral code and a lot of depth. Whichever the choice of the filmmaker might be, one thing is certain: the allure of Hitmen in modern culture can be observed in many productions on and beyond the silver screen.

Perhaps one of the best-known hitmen in today’s digital culture is Agent 47. His adventures have been the topic of two feature films and several video games – some of them, like last year’s “Hitman” reboot built by IO Interactive, are major releases, while others, like the Hitman slot machine at the Vegas Palms Casino, are casual games. The Vegas Palms version of the game is a surprise, as it’s among the handful such games inspired by a video game franchise.

Agent 47 is the perfect example of a faceless, nameless hired gun with an immoral organization behind him. His absolute priority is to complete his assignment, going as far as to sacrificing innocent lives to do so. His professionalism is undisputed: he can blend in with normal people, lie and bluff in a perfectly convincing way. His personality has hidden sides, though – he enjoys fine dining, expensive clothing, and he even donates to charity.

Compared to 47, some of the movie assassins we had the chance to meet over the years seem like little kids on the playgrounds – this didn’t make them less liked or loathed by their respective audiences. Sometimes, in turn, they show similarities with the faceless, nameless assassin.

La Femme Nikita (1990)

Nikita played by Anne Parillaud in Luc Besson’s 1990 movie “La Femme Nikita”, was a teenage junkie who participates in a robbery gone wrong. After being sentenced to life in prison, her death is faked, and she is recruited by a shady government organization called “The Centre”. She is trained to become an assassin and passes her exams (i.e. killing a diplomat) on her first try. She lives a double life, even gets a boyfriend, but her job often interferes with her personal life. Still, all goes well until a mission goes wrong, leading to Nikita (now Marie) leaving the Centre and ultimately starting a new life in secret.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Léon, another assassin brought to life in Luc Besson’s “Léon the Professional”, is a completely different personality. He is a hired gun – he likes to refer to himself as a “cleaner” – with quite a few surprising habits for such a profession: he only drinks milk, he loves his houseplant, and watching old movies. Oh, and he cannot read. All this until he teams up with 12-year-old Mathilda (Natalie Portman’s the first big screen role) who escapes the fate of her dysfunctional family (they are killed by a corrupt DEA agent) and decides to learn the tricks of the trade. Reluctant at first, Léon agrees to train her in return for a few services, like running his errands, taking care of his plant, and teaching him to read. The movie has a touching story, not lacking explosive action either – it is one of the few movies where you actually feel really bad about … but I’ll let you discover for yourself.

The 51st State

Dakota Parker is a contract killer who escaped her petty life in Liverpool to pursue a more satisfying (and profitable) career overseas. She accumulates quite a gambling debt, though, and she agrees to work for the Lizard, a local drug lord, to wipe her slate clean. In the meantime, Elmo McElroy, the Lizard’s genius chemist, attempts to double-cross his boss by planting a bomb on the site of the presentation of his new wonder drug POS51, and travels to Liverpool, England to sell the formula. The Lizard survives, though, and sends Dakota to take him out. Once there, she takes out the buyer and pursues Elmo who, in turn, teams up with Dakota’s former lover Felix DeSouza, a local fixer. The story involves neo-nazi junkies, corrupt cops, local dealers, and a lot of Liverpool English (Scouse). As you might expect, it all ends well for the assassin (who proves to be a good girl after all), the fixer, the chemist, and the honest cop.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Game show host and producer Chuck Barris, who claimed to have also been an assassin for the CIA. George Clooney directed the film that starred Sam Rockwell as Barris. One night after Barris is kicked out of a bar for fighting, he is approached by CIA agent Jim Byrd, who recruits him as an assassin. Meanwhile, ABC green-lights The Dating Game, and by 1967 the show is a phenomenon. Was it true, was it all fiction?

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead

Jimmy “The Saint” Tosnia (Andy Garca) is an ex-gangster living in Denver. Jimmy left the criminal world, to “go straight” with his “Afterlife Advice” business, where dying people videotape messages for their loved ones. His business isn’t doing well and his former boss, a local crime lord known as “The Man With The Plan,” (Christopher Walken) has bought up his debt in order to command a favor involving the crime lord’s son, Bernard. He wants Jimmy and his gang to get Bernard’s ex, Meg, to come back. The plan goes wrong and Meg ends up getting killed. The Man With The Plan informs Jimmy that he will allow him to live, as long as he leaves Denver, but his crew have been sentenced to “buckwheats,” to be assassinated in a gruesome and painful manner.
Jimmy’s friends come to terms with their impending deaths as they are stalked by a hit man, Mr. Shhh (Steve Buscemi), who never fails. Buscemi makes a chiller, yet funny hitman who appears from nowhere, does the job and leaves.

These are just a few professional movie assassins on the big screen, who are different from Agent 47’s style. Who else would you include?

Talk about it in the comments below.

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