One ‘Hit’ away from the bottom of the barrel

Brian Merlos
John Mayer. But not really. (COURTESY OF Warner BROS.)
Brian Merlos
(COURTESY OF 20TH CENTURY FOX)

Rating: 1 and a half out of 5 stars

“Hitman”

At Quality 16 and Showcase

20th Century Fox

Watching “Hitman” isn’t as excruciating as, say, getting a barcode tattooed on the base of your skull, but it isn’t exactly a kiss on the cheek, either. Unlike many recent shoot-’em-up films before it (“The Transporter,” “Smokin’ Aces” and the one they actually called “Shoot ‘Em Up”), “Hitman” suffers from the additional symptom of being based on a mediocre video game. As any person with eyes and ears can tell you, movie adaptations of video games range from the marginal (“Resident Evil”) to the abysmal (“House of the Dead”), and “Hitman” lies somewhere in the middle.

Timothy Olyphant (TV’s “Deadwood”) plays the most conspicuous-looking assassin in the world (officer, I’d check out what’s in that massive, tattooed bald guy’s bag), known only by the number 47. He’s contracted to kill the Russian president, but he discovers he’s been set up. Guns, boobs and explosions abound, and about 87 people are dead by the time he gets his revenge. Originally marketed as PG-13, you can see the places where digital splashes of blood have been added or sequences of random nudity have been extended to appease the game’s rabid fan base. As a member of the 98% male audience, I’m sure you’ll at least cheer for that.

Paul Tassi

The ‘Rush’ only relates to the music

Rating: 2 and a half out of 5 stars

“August Rush”

At Quality 16 and Showcase

Warner Bros.

A reimagining of “Oliver” into another musical, “August Rush” is full of flights of airy fancy. Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, “Match Point”) and Lyla (Keri Russell, TV’s “Felicity”) meet under a New York moon. Lyla’s father, believing a child would hinder her future as a cellist, forges her signature on adoption papers and sends their newborn Evan (Freddie Highmore, “Finding Neverland”) to an orphanage. Evan eventually sets off to New York City, and with the help of a Fagin-like Robin Williams (“Good Will Hunting”), a guitar and Julliard, he puts his music out into the world in hopes his parents will hear it and find him.

As determinedly saccharine as the movie is, “August Rush” is salvaged by the one thing the movie hammers home: music. The music is pitch-perfect throughout, a harmonious blend of rock and classical that holds the audience as it waits for the crescendo. The power of the universal language of music binds the characters and the audience together, emotionally and physically. When the movie focuses on that simple force, “August Rush” doesn’t need leaps of faith to succeed.

Sarah Schwartz

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