The Hitman’s Bodyguard, 2017.
Directed by Patrick Hughes.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim De Almeida, Kirsty Mitchell, and Richard E. Grant.
A top-rated bodyguard struggling to rebuild his reputation after a calamitous mistake, is forced to help deliver an infamous hitman to testify at the trial of a murderous dictator.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a feature exactly as advertised, meaning that if the prospect of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson teaming up in a buddy action-comedy playing exaggerated versions of their most iconic personalities (Reynolds delivers all the snarky retorts and juvenile humor while Jackson finds a way to insert the word “muthafucka” into every line of dialogue), then you honestly don’t need to read too much more of this review. In a way, it’s a rare movie that someone can gauge whether they will like it or not simply by checking out various trailers and TV spots.
Regardless, it has to be said that without the outrageous duo bickering and blowing shit up all over Europe, The Hitman’s Bodyguard would be a generic bore. Probably the most interesting thing to ponder regarding the film is if it was actually written with these two actors in mind, or if they just used their natural charisma and comedic timing to save a disaster. Truthfully, there isn’t much to praise besides Reynolds and Jackson, as their constant arguing and fumbling through dangerous situations is the only adrenaline factor.
Gary Oldman plays a warlord criminal that Darius (Samuel L. Jackson playing a legendary assassin deemed unkillable) must reach the Hague to testify against at a trial in return for the safety of his wife (Salma Hayek in a lazily written role that amounts to nothing more than being a stereotypical, foul-mouthed and feisty Latina woman), except it’s impossible to give a damn about seeing him get any form of comeuppance. Sure, he’s one of the all-time greats, but not even he can make a villain feel less one-dimensional when all he is given to do are a few short scenes of screaming and murdering a family in cold blood. Such routes to make an antagonist come across as evil are cheap. Furthermore, the scenes are presented far too seriously which does not contrast well at all with the delightful silliness of Reynolds and Jackson’s antics.
Continuing along discussing the wives of Reynolds and Jackson’s characters, both are severely underwritten but apparently necessary to the plot as in between all the explosions and bloodshed (and the unlikely duo swearing at each other) are musings on love. Jackson actually has a line asking what point there is to slaughtering evil people (it’s important to note that while he is a contract killer, he does not harm innocent civilians, although with the destruction he leaves in his path there has to have been collateral damage at some point) if you don’t have a flame to tell about it. Meanwhile, Reynolds rejects the concept of love as he feels it was responsible for him losing his AAA elite status at protecting important figures. As tonally discombobulating as this might sound, it actually works and provides some absolutely hilarious flashback scenes depicting each hero meeting their love interest. Also, both scenes are set to incredibly cheesy 80s romance songs, enhancing the absurdity of it all.
There are some bumps in the road (it takes far too long for Reynolds and Jackson to cross paths, and at an unnecessary two hours it definitely feels that this would have been the place to shave off some of the running time), but it’s smooth sailing once their dynamite chemistry is let loose. It’s actually an impressive feat considering that even though it is incredibly apparent that all the film is doing is having the actors demonstrate their hits and catch phrases instead of having them inhabit different personas. Juxtaposing boring heroes with loud and obnoxious ones isn’t a new concept, but there are very few modern-day pairings that could elicit some of the major laughs that these two get out of audiences.
The best parts of The Hitman’s Bodyguard aren’t even the numerous action scenes (that get more crazy and entertaining as the film barrels toward its climax), but rather car rides of extended dialogue exchanges featuring the two unable to get along about literally everything. Without spoiling why, Reynolds actually has a breakdown, ditching Jackson to go consume shot after shot of alcohol, all while the latter ends up getting into a shootout in the surrounding area. It’s these kind of hijinks and shenanigans that make the film memorable, although Reynolds gets a very awesome hand-to-hand combat scene inside a hardware store while Jackson gets in a boat chase across the canals of Amsterdam. Essentially, the second half of the film is where the filmmakers and actors all hit their stride, crafting perfectly calculated chaotic madness.
Unfortunately, the majority of the violence also contains CGI blood splatter for bullets piercing bodies that both look fake and becomes annoyingly distracting. The argument can also be made that there are one too many explosions, as whenever fire engulfs the screen it is more weak looking special-effects. On the other side of the coin, this is a surprisingly hard-R flick filled with unexpected levels of blood and gore; it honestly quickly becomes gratuitous but I certainly won’t complain as it is something welcome in this style of a retro-action throwback.
Fortunately, none of that ever takes away from the abundant comedy throughout the experience. Reynolds and Jackson are a fireworks pairing that carries basic action nonsense into something electric. If you’re into the types of performances both actors have made names for themselves playing, it’s hard to imagine you not having a blast watching The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Chief Film Critic of Flickering Myth. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com