Not too many movies take place in South Dakota. Most that do are historical pieces dealing with the Old West and Native American history.
Of the top of my head, Badlands and Thunderheart are the only real “modern-day” movies that have chosen South Dakota as their setting (not counting Team America, I guess).
Other than Deadwood — again, a historical piece, I don’t think there’s ever been a TV show set in our state.
And why should there be? Nothing ever really happens here.
Well, not in real life, anyway. If video games are to be believed, there’s some seedy folks slithering around behind the shadows in the S.D.
A couple weeks ago, Hitman: Absolution was released for Playstation 3 and XBox 360, the fifth game in the popular Hitman series and the first in the PS3/360 generation (yes, the same franchise that spawned the not-very-good 2007 movie starring Timothy Olyphant and a really hot Russian model). The last Hitman was released six years ago, so with such a long time between entries, Absolution was pretty highly anticipated.
I bought it without knowing much about it, and was stunned — stunned — to discover that almost the entire game takes place in South Dakota, as Agent 47 heads out West to find a girl who’s being targeted by a rich industrialist in a cowboy hat known as Blake Dexter (voiced by Keith Carradine). The game ominously calls him “The Man from South Dakota”.
I won’t bore you with anymore details of the plot, because
A: You probably don’t care, and
B: It’s not very good, even by video game standards
But the South Dakota that the game’s creators envision is pretty entertaining, and considering how people in South Dakota make a huge deal out of anytime they get a “Faces in the Crowd” in SI, or Willard Scott (is he still alive?) wishes some lady from Faith a happy 100th birthday, I’m kind of surprised nobody in the media has picked up on SD playing such a big role in a highly popular video game. Maybe that’s because I’m the only member of the media that plays video games.
Anyway, here are some of the truly amusing highlights of Hope, South Dakota, the fictional town depicted in Hitman:Absolution.
Agent 47 begins in Chicago, and soon discovers his next target is in South Dakota. He leaves Chicago, driving past a freeway sign on I-80 that inexplicably reads ‘West: South Dakota’.
Welcome to Hope. It’s not a real town.
Soon 47 arrives in a dusty, sun-scorched landscape complete with corn fields, oil rigs, rattlesnakes, and, well, a desert. Not the badlands, but an actual desert.
The first place he visits in Hope is a biker bar, a three-room saloon full of so many men that it might actually be a gay bar now that I think of it. Most are either wearing cowboy hats or black leather jackets.
47 trips a fuse to kill the juke box, which leads to a fight between a biker with tattoo arm sleeves and an old guy with a band-aid on his nose, which soon leads to the entire bar getting into a full scale bar brawl, Roadhouse style.
You have to beat up about six Stone Cold Steve Austin look-alikes to make it to the back of the bar, where you threaten a young bartender into giving you information. He acts as though fights like this happen every night.
I think this is supposed to be the badlands
After leaving the bar, you are challenged to a shooting competition at a gun range by a young woman who I can best describe as Jessica Rabbit in a cowboy hat and Daisy Dukes. I’ve lived in South Dakota for almost my entire life and not been fortunate enough to encounter a woman such as this. The gun shop’s owner is a creepy old guy with a tracheotomy voice device. After leaving the gun shop you’ll wind up in a donut shop where a cop and a guy in a cowboy hat are discussing — what else — high school football, and one even laments open enrollment. I’m not making this up.
Blake Dexter, the aforementioned “Man from South Dakota”, operates Dexter Industries, which appears to be one of the largest employers in the country — a place where some of the most cutting edge scientific experiments in the world are taking place, from advancements in artificial intelligence to human biological engineering to developing landmines that are tested by blowing up pigs. Idunno, maybe this kind of stuff takes place at EROS.
Blake Dexter: AKA, the Man from South Dakota
Dexter’s hired muscle is a man who appears to be a Native American, which would seem appropriate for a game that takes place in western South Dakota, but he’s the only Native American in the entire game, and he actually might not be Native, because his name is Sanchez. Anyway, Sanchez is literally 8 feet tall and about 500 pounds.
Sanchez fights in underground (literally) cage matches in Hope (that are also televised, apparently), and is a local celebrity for brutally beating whomever challenges him. Scientists at Dexter Industries helped him grow to his inhuman size with genetic experiments, but apparently none of his opponents in the ring see a problem with that.
Eventually, 47 must eliminate Sanchez, either by disguising himself as an MMA fighter and defeating him in the ring, or by sneaking into the upper levels of the “arena” and rigging the ceiling light fixtures to fall from their hinges and crush Sanchez in the ring.
Sanchez and Dexter play rough while George Washington looks on
Dexter also has a son named Lenny who commits petty crimes for his dad with his buddies, who always wear bowling shirts that say ‘Cougars’ on the back, but it’s not really a bowling team, it’s the name of their gang. I can only assume this is a veiled dig at the University of Sioux Falls.
In addition to Dexter, 47 is also being chased by “The Agency”, his former employer. After he disposes of Sanchez the Agency catches on to 47’s whereabouts and sends a team of elite female assassins who dress as sexy nuns, known as “The Saints”, who loudly arrive in the Rushmore State to take him out. Worth noting is that the lead hot nun is voiced by Vivica A. Fox, who once played Will Smith’s stripper girlfriend in Independence Day.
The Agency director who’s after you is voiced by Powers Boothe, otherwise known as Curly Bill in Tombstone.
Eventually, 47 disposes of The Saints. I’d love to believe that a genetically engineered hitman has killed a team of nun assassins within our state’s borders at some point, but I doubt that it has happened.
Later, 47 has to infiltrate the Hope courthouse, which might be the most impressive courthouse in our state, a gorgeous two-story, 19th-century style building, run by an anglophile judge who insists on wearing an actual court dress wig like the dudes in ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ (and presumably any other movies that have court scenes that take place in England).
At one point you overhear a court clerk complaining that the crazy judge is so obsessed with Brit culture he wants the court transcripts to change a witness’s testimony of “What the Hell?” to “Blimey!”.
Later this proves to be a plot device, when 47 offs the judge and uses the wig to move through courthouse security undetected.
A game like this wouldn’t be complete without a corrupt politician, and sure enough, Dexter has used his muscle to hand pick his own Sheriff, a pervert named Clive Skurky (There’s got to be an actual Clive Skurky somewhere in South Dakota, doesn’t there?), who does Dexter’s bidding behind the scenes and also plays S&M in the basement of the prison, where he has a dominatrix tie him up and whip him.
Sheriff Skurky takes an important phone call in his office
Eventually, 47 kills Sheriff Skurky, then makes his way back to Chicago, where he must track down Dexter in his Chicago mansion.
Honestly, I was kind of sad when the game left South Dakota and moved back to the big city. Couldn’t it have ended with a standoff at Mount Rushmore? Surely that would’ve been better than the top of a Chicago skyscraper, which is where every stealth video game ever made seems to end.
The South Dakota I traversed in this game may not have bared any resemblance to the South Dakota that actually exists, but hey, it was still kind of fun to pretend.
I can only assume that as soon they see the South Dakota created for Hitman: Absolution, movie studios and TV producers will come running.
Agent 47 says goodbye to the Rushmore State