This week sees the release of Hitman: Agent 47, the second attempt at spinning a movie out of the popular Hitman videogame franchise. Given the proliferation of hitman movies, it's not difficult to see why they're trying again with this property despite the first attempt in 2007 being somewhat pants.
To mark the release of the new film, I am going to cite cinema's five coolest hitmen. I'm not suggesting murdering people for money is in any way cool. But you have to admit, some hitmen are simply cooler than others...these are they.
5. Martin Blank. Played by John Cusack in Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
This nostalgic comedy is played principally for laughs, and it's testament to Cusack's performance that he maintains audience empathy despite the nature of his job. It may reek a little of the '90s, but the film is highly entertaining and Cusack has rarely been better. The way Martin Blank works through his emotional issues while murdering people for money only seems to make him more endearing.
4. Mister Shhh. Played by Steve Buscemi in Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead (1995)
This particularly nasty fellow almost qualifies solely on the supreme coolness of his name, but his sadistic methods, which are a little too extreme for discussion in this family publication, push him into the pantheon of the all-time coolest movie hitmen. As much of an honour it would be to be killed by Steve Buscemi, Mister Shhh's victims don't exactly get a quick exit...
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3. Léon. Played by Jean Reno in Léon aka The Professional (1994)
It is Léon's lack of classic cool that makes him so cool. He's kinda bumbling, and a little bit stupid, but he really knows his business, and isn't above teaching it to a little girl (Natalie Portman). This film came out just as hitmen movies were starting to become a little too self-concious, and in many ways is the last gasp of the old, non-ironic hitman guard.
2. John Wick. Played by Keanu Reeves in John Wick (2014)
It really is criminal how little play this film got in New Zealand - it's one of the coolest action thrillers in years, and Keanu wholly re-establishes his cool credentials in the title role. It's greatly enhanced by the actor performing many of his own stunts as he takes out what seems like an entire city's worth of rival henchmen.
1. The Jackal. Played by Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal (1973)
As played by Edward Fox in this terrific adaptation of the Frederick Forsyth book, The Jackal is the epitome of British cool, the ultimate anti-Bond. He may be a cold-blooded killer, but the man can work an ascot better than Fred from Scooby-Doo. The film is similarly chilly, an unnerving slow-burn thriller that builds excellently to a starkly effective conclusion. Bruce Willis played the character in the boring 1997 remake, and was everything Fox wasn't. Plus he murders Jack Black. The French President is one thing, but you don't go murdering Jack Black. That ain't cool.
Angel Eyes (Lee Van Cleef) in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974). James Bond (Timothy Dalton) in Licence To Kill (1989). Nikita (Anne Parillaud) in La Femme Nikita (1990). Crunch (Bokeem Woodbine) in The Big Hit (1998). Both Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and Maguire (Jude Law) in Road To Perdition (2002). The Professor (Clive Owen) in The Bourne Identity (2002), Vincent (Tom Cruise) in Collateral (2004). Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) in Crank (2006) and Crank: High Voltage (2009). Both Jay (Neil Maskell) and Gal (Michael Smiley) in Kill List (2011).
Dishonourable mentions (i.e. these hitmen are totally lame):
Both Robert Rath (Sylvester Stallone) and Miguel Bain (Antonio Banderas) in Assassins (1995). Jimmy Bobo (Sylvester Stallone) in Bullet to the Head (2002). Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) in Hitman (2007). Terrier (Sean Penn) in The Gunman (2015).
• Who are you favourite movie hitmen? Who do you think are the lamest? Comment below!