To date, there has been not one but two film adaptations of the celebrated video game series Hitman. Both failed pretty miserably to capture the spirit of the games – the methodical planning and anxiety-inducing tension that came with pulling off the perfect hit, or the adrenaline rush from improvising when the plan goes awry. Filmmaker Nick Stagliano’s latest, The Virtuoso, is perhaps the best cinematic portrayal of these feelings ever put to screen, with one of the most stylish assassin thrillers in years.
Anson Mount (Hell on Wheels, Star Trek: Discovery) stars as the titular professional hitman, who takes the most challenging job of his career from his mentor (Anthony Hopkins) while dealing with the grief of collateral damage during his previous assassination. Given only a time, location and a cryptic clue, Mount’s Virtuoso must work out who his target is and execute before time runs out. Among the potential targets are the town’s mysterious sheriff (David Morse), a quiet loner (Eddie Marsan) and the local diner’s waitress (Abbie Cornish)…
The Virtuoso is a film that certainly feels straight-to-DVD, with predictable narrative beats and a general feeling of ‘seen it all before’ in its premise that comes close to thwarting the film from being anything interesting. With that said, the film’s stylish execution is befitting of its’ protagonist – the film rarely puts a foot wrong in the delivery of its story, thanks to a surprisingly compelling albeit convoluted script, some excellent cinematography and a brilliant score from Brooke and Will Blair.
Apart from anything, it is just great to see Anson Mount in a film lead role after his excellent work on television over the last few years. The man oozes movie star quality, so hopefully this will be the start of a long list of roles that will utilise his charisma and Golden Age good looks. A solid supporting cast gives the film a high level of quality, too – Hopkins sleepwalks through his limited scenes, but even Hopkins at 50% power is still an engaging screen presence. A monologue he gives early in the film about his time during the Vietnam War is certainly the film’s highlight, reminding us even Hopkins reading the yellow pages would be compelling.
The Virtuoso might not have many surprises up its narrative sleeve, but a slick and stylish execution elevates this straight-to-DVD thriller far above what could’ve been just another bland and forgettable film that inexplicably bagged Hopkins in a supporting role, after recent misfires like Misconduct and Collide. Surprisingly compelling and boasting some great visuals, The Virtuoso offers up a captivating thrill-ride and although it may not linger long in your mind after the credits roll, the 100 minutes fly by and offer a welcome slice of old-school escapism. Just don’t think too hard about the twists – there’s more holes in this plot than a block of swiss cheese.
The Virtuoso is available on digital platforms from 30 April and DVD from 10 May, courtesy of Lionsgate