Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard, 2021.
Directed by Patrick Hughes.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, Blake Ritson, Gabriella Wright, and Tomi May.
The world’s most lethal odd couple – bodyguard Michael Bryce and hitman Darius Kincaid – are back on another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife, the infamous international con artist Sonia Kincaid. As Bryce is driven over the edge by his two most dangerous protectees, the trio get in over their heads in a global plot and soon find that they are all that stand between Europe and a vengeful and powerful madman.
Director Patrick Hughes seems to think that entertainment comes from forcing a situation to be as crowded, loud, and vulgarly chaotic as possible. Admittedly, such an approach worked for 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard, presumably because it’s easier to manage that insanity when it’s only Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson playing off one another. On the other hand, Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard is aggressively annoying and will have anyone wanting to lower the volume inside an actual theater even if it’s their first time back in over a year. It’s not a good sign when you feel like the irritated and worn down protagonist that wants to walk away from an international terrorist threat to be free of an overload of juvenile antics that even 13-year-olds will likely grow tired of fast.
Nevertheless, Ryan Reynolds returns as Michael Bryce, a still unlicensed AAA assassin following disgraceful events serving as the titular bodyguard for Samuel L. Jackson’s career criminal Darius Kincaid. He has a dream once a night where he wins a prestigious bodyguard award that swiftly transitions into a nightmare every time, with Darius popping up on the scene to assassinate the protectee. It’s a reminder of Michael’s failure and a focal point of his therapy sessions, where he has a breakthrough that he should put bodyguard work on hold while taking a much-needed vacation in search of a spiritual awakening (one that sees Michael leaving voicemails for his hopeful new and improved future self).
Serenity doesn’t last long. While blocking out all noise with headphones, a shootout erupts on an Italian beach with Darius’s foul-mouthed and sexually suggestive wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) violently coming to the rescue and informing him that her equally boisterous husband has been kidnapped and specifically requested Michael to free him. Refusing to use deadly weapons, Michael reluctantly does as asked, only to find out that Sonia had misheard Darius, who said the request help from “anyone but Michael.” Butting heads, as usual, they also don’t get to go their separate ways as they are intercepted by Interpol and put in charge of thwarting a preposterous data breach on all of Europe, looking to shut down power to the entire continent.
Aside from the fact that Antonio Banderas plays a Greek criminal mastermind backed up by a team of master hackers, I also couldn’t tell you a damn thing about the plot of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. It’s also not a stretch to say that screenwriters Brandon and Philip Murphy (based on characters created by Tom O’Connor) also don’t care, as they speed past anything involving character motivations and goal clarity. One would assume the narrative might retrace its steps somewhat after our three mismatched heroes come together, but things only go more haywire from there.
I’m not going to pretend that the first movie was an underappreciated comedic gem, but the chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is fresh and has an energy to it that overcomes the reality that it’s also Looney Tunes cartoon violence and toilet humor. And while it’s not the fault of Salma Hayek, Sonia’s bombastic and sex-crazed (now with baby fever) personality tips the scales in favor of grating noise. It would also be easier to go along with that much rampant instability if the filmmakers had an interest in doing anything other than countless lame sex jokes (there’s a part where all three of them are knocked unconscious with darts falling into sexual positions) and a cacophony of explosions.
The latter would be fun if the litany of car chases and fights weren’t haphazardly edited and rushed to the point where it’s difficult to tell what characters are doing half of the time; even when it is clear what’s happening, none of it sticks as memorable. That’s also an impressive failure considering Samuel L. Jackson starts smashing heads in with a mace, and, of all people, Morgan Freeman gets his own hand-to-hand combat scene. It’s also better left experienced rather than told who Morgan Freeman is playing, as that particular stretch at least shows that when bullets aren’t flying, some amusing thoughts went into the backstories of these characters. The brief exposition also teases the possibility of something intriguing going on with one of the protagonists, but not before settling back into generically overedited carnage.
During the climax, some goons rise out of a body of water on mechanical gadgets that do nothing more than making them easy targets for Michael to dispatch of, so if nothing else, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is occasionally self-aware of its stupidity and tries to deconstruct ludicrous aspects of the spy genre. It just decides to go that route far too late. Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is assuredly a lousy movie, but also a rare case where it wouldn’t take that many tweaks to find something of value; it needs more focus on the characters (their camaraderie is more appealing during quieter moments of absurdity) and some severe tightening on the action sequences, and maybe one or two more hints of just what the hell is even going on with the plot. Not even an assortment of charismatic talents can salvage things this time.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com