The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
Pure escapism. Reynolds and Jackson are amusing at times, hilarious in others, and make this very R-rated action comedy go down relatively smoothly.
For those who miss the snarky, action-comedy buddy movies of days gone by, The Hitman's Bodyguard tries, with some success, to resurrect that throwback feel of movies we all remember pretty fondly.
There is a free-wheeling, go-for-broke tone and feel to this which some viewers will absolutely enjoy.
The movie has an occasional amateurishness to it which is surprising. Visual effects and CGI look pretty fake in some scenes, stunt doubles are clearly visible at times, and the movie could benefit from a greater attention to detail.
Reynolds and Jackson riff constantly when paired together. As a result, the movie carries a smugness about it which might annoy some viewers and rub them the wrong way.
You can tell me the movie is not very good at all, and it would, admittedly, be hard to change your opinion on that.
In something of a throwback to the vulgar, screwball, action comedies of the 1990s, The Hitman's Bodyguard could easily settle in comfortably within the shadows of Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, and several other buddy/cop action flicks where two folks must overcome their differences and solve a crime.
To be honest, there is literally nothing original or new about anything that plays out during these 118 minutes, but Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson cruise right on through this thing playing snarky, quick-witted prima donnas; the likes of which we have seen from them countless times before. The veteran actors are clearing having a ball, and its largely their chemistry and banter with one another which turns a rudimentary, paint-by-numbers movie something entertaining and watchable.
Just like movies in the 1980s and 1990s (and, to be fair, the 2000s, and 2010s as well), The Hitman's Bodyguard places us squarely in the middle of a conflict between a Belarus (i.e. Russian) warlord Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman, backpacking through the terrain here with a big ol' Russian accent), hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson), and Michael Bryce (Reynolds), a special agent who valets and protects pretty much anyone who will hire him.
Dukhovich is set to stand trial for war crimes at The Hague, and Interpol agent, Amelia Roussel (Élodie Yung), draws on a past relationship with Bryce to call in a favor, hiring him to protect Kincaid, summoned to testify against the Belarusian tyrant. Amelia underestimates how badly Michael took their past breakup and, in addition to wrestling with all of those feelings again, Kincaid has agreed to testify on the understanding that his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) will be released from jail, imprisoned for killing a dozen potential attackers one night in a bar fight.
These ideas and storylines feel dated as they roll out on screen, even if Tom O'Connor's screenplay does not take itself too seriously. Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) pushes the movie along at a noticeable clip and finds occasional balance between infusing the film with comedy, action, and allowing Reynolds and Jackson plenty of real estate with which to improv a continual series of feisty comebacks and sophomoric jabs at each other.
As a movie, The Hitman's Bodyguard is not much. Connecting these dots on where all of this is going is minimally challenging. This forces us to hang our likes and dislikes on the Jackson/Reynolds dynamic and the action sequences. Simply stated, if two charismatic, smart-alecks trading barbs for two hours sounds like your cup of tea, Michael and Kincaid make a great team.
Cut together well, the action scenes carry some pop and sizzle. However, it should be noted that some of these scenes don't quite feel ready for prime time. Visual effects work looks obvious and artificial, continuity errors show us apparent stunt doubles one too many times, and the film could have taken another run through post-production to clean things up a little better.
At the end of the day, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then this duck is a stuck-in-time 1990s action comedy. Hayek is a delight, offering a wonderful, albeit brief comedic turn in a few key scenes. When Hughes pulls the focus away from comedy and necessarily turns towards building the crime and espionage elements, O'Connor's screenplay staggers, and the movie slips into tedium.
Luckily, there are enough Reynolds and Jackson moments that keep the movie afloat just long enough to wheeze across the finish line.
Embodying a carefree, let's wing it, go-for-broke attitude, The Hitman's Bodyguard is amusing and, at times, quite entertaining. Whether this is a good movie or not is highly debatable, but there are far worse ways to spend two hours in a multiplex, or home on the couch, than this.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Élodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida, Kirsty Mitchell, Richard E. Grant, Sam Hazeldine, Donna Preston.
Director: Patrick Hughes
Written by: Tom O'Connor
Release Date: August 18, 2017