The Hitman’s Bodyguard | Patrick Hughes | August 18, 2017
The Hitman’s Bodyguard provides the arena for a match-up between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson for who can out-insult one another in a variety of equally harsh and creative ways. Inspired by ’90s buddy action movies, it’s a silly action-comedy flick that knows what it is and goes full-in on its concept, but chances are if you’ve ever seen an action film before, you know exactly what you’re going to get, for better and worse.
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) was once the best Triple-A rated bodyguard in the business until one unfortunate mistake took him down a few notches. Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is a notorious assassin who is set to testify against the cold-blooded Belarusian tyrant Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Kincaid is set for transport by an Interpol team led by Agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), but the transport vehicle is ambushed and leaves them with their back against the wall.
Desperate for help, Roussel reaches out to the only man up to the job of protection someone with a larger target on their head: Michael Bryce. Of course, Bryce and Kincaid are long-time enemies whose paths have crossed dangerously on countless occasions. But they’re forced to put their differences aside and work together not for money or glory, but for what else, but love? Kincaid wants to put Dukhovich away in exchange for the release of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek, playing against type) from prison, while Reynolds is looking to try and win back Roussel, who just happens to be an old flame.
The plot itself and the love storylines are not the strong suits of screenwriter Tom O’Connor’s script. Where The Hitman’s Bodyguard does find moments of success is when the movie hones in on the buddy comedy elements and gets Jackson and Reynolds in close quarters and lets them have at each other. The two are naturals at this and are throwing one-liners at one another faster than a speeding bullet. There’s some genuine laughs to be had here, but Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes and O’Connor get lost in the predictability of their rather stale script and it drags The Hitman’s Bodyguard down a few notches.
Every trope or elements of any action film is to be had here, leaving no room for tension or surprise. You have some real star talent here in the form of Reynolds and Jackson, but there’s only so many one-liners that they can sling at each other before the thinly written plot comes creeping back in and slowing things down. The two-hour runtime is simply too long and could’ve really benefited from a leaner 90-minute cut. Sometimes less is more, and in a film that really doesn’t it take itself seriously, it would have been beneficial for it to break free from some many of the conventional routes of action-comedies of this sort.
Hughes’ direction lacks any style or flare and there’s some noticeably bad CGI that was a real distraction, intentional or not. The pacing and flow of the film really slowed down when the elements of the relationships and love came back into play, and although it’s the basis of their motivations to keep going, it was never developed or earned in a way that allows you to buy in. There’s a scene between the two leads where they debate what’s the better line of work, protecting bad people or killing evil ones. It was actually an interesting discussion point, but not one that was fleshed out enough or ever returned to.
There’s something definitely cooking chemistry wise between Reynolds and Jackson, who both have enough charisma to carry a flick. They are genuinely solid as a duo and they really do their best to elevate the material and are the only reason why this film works at all. Both Elodie Yung and Salma Hayek’s characters are thinly written, but both actresses have enough charisma to make them feel alive and it was a pleasant surprise to see Hayek go against type in such an all-in manner.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t a bad film. It has some nutty action sequences that are entertaining and thrilling. It’s fun to see Jackson and Reynolds spit fire at each other. But the script doesn’t give this film enough of a new flavor for it to stand out, which is a wasted opportunity.