6 out of 10
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Directed by Patrick Hughes
The Hitman’s Bodyguard Review:
The Hitman’s Bodyguard wants to be a late 1980s-early 1990s throwback to the popular entertainment of the time so badly that on some level you have to admire its eagerness to please in that regard. Part of the film feels like Joel Silver or Jerry Bruckheimer in their heyday, and that’s not a bad thing. Lately, we haven’t seen many movies with that sort of energy. So many films are huge in scale that something a little more down to Earth feels welcome. There’s a lot to like here… and a lot to criticize. The movie is at its best when we get to have fun enjoying Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson spar back and forth. Buddy camaraderie is something we don’t get a lot of these days in our action movies. Mostly, we just have to take in the spectacle, hire some bland, uncharismatic actors, and just ride it out. The Hitman’s Bodyguard at least tries to give us some characterization and some humor to make it fun, even when Jackson drops his famous MF-bombs every few minutes.
It’s too bad the action is so loud and weightless. There is one sequence in a toolshop towards the end of the film with Reynolds and a European thug that is well shot and innovative, even through all the shakycam (it’s done in one seemingly long take), but for the most part, there’s nothing you haven’t seen before, watered down through so many John Woo films, a copy of a copy of a copy. There’s also some ill-advised CGI usage that took me right out of the movie; a shot of a boat moving on a river, of all things, looks so point-and-click as to be distracting. Had director Patrick Hughes gone more practical, we may have had some visually-interesting action, and sometimes it works. Mostly, though, you wonder if the actors were even on set that day.
Bryce (Reynolds) is a down-on-his-luck hired protector; during one mission, his client is shot and killed, and he’s been mostly slumming it ever since, protecting Eurotrash and celebrities. But his former girlfriend, Amelia (Elodia Yung) is hot on the trail of international leader — and probable war criminal — Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman, phoning it in), and needs Bryce’s help to bring in world-renowned assassin Darius Kincaid to the Hague to testify against Dukhovich. If Bryce can get Kincaid there on time, Kincaid’s testimony could put Dukhovich away for good. Of course, Dukhovich isn’t going to take this lying down, so he sends his teams to take Kincaid out. If you’ve ever seen a buddy action movie before, you’ll know that Bryce and Kincaid don’t exactly get along, and so they must figure out how to trust one another if they are going to survive.
The film works best when it stays focused on Reynolds and Jackson. They do have a nice chemistry, and both actors can be funny together, and even reach a kind of poignancy. Turns out (and again, if you’ve ever seen a movie before, you’ll see this coming a mile off) that Kincaid may have some blame for Bryce’s current predicament, which is the primary source of their conflict. Both have their own kind of morality, and come to admire the other’s. Plus, Kincaid is trying to get his wife free if he can. She’s played with fervor by Salma Hayek, and although she doesn’t share much screen time with our heroes, she seems to be having a blast.
Most of the time, though, the film struggles with its action set pieces to fill the time. We’re fortunate to have both Reynolds and Jackson during those downtime moments, because when the action starts, it’s booming, cacophonous, and not very interesting. Patrick Hughes is no stranger to action, but there’s not much here that is very arresting. The Hitman’s Bodyguard tries to give the action some edge by not holding back the gore, but all the sequences start to run together into one big headache-inducing shakycam fest. The screening I attended had the sound out of balance, and the action was so loud that if the actors were making jokes during the shootouts, I missed them. Still, I don’t feel like I missed much.
I’d love to see Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in another movie like this. They have a good rapport and are genuinely entertaining together. Unfortunately, The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t the best vehicle for their considerable talents. There isn’t a lot of ambition in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, but that’s fine; the movie works when it feels like it just wants to entertain, and not re-invent the wheel. If we got more Reynolds/Jackson interaction, and less generic action, I could recommend The Hitman’s Bodyguard. If you catch this on home video, in the quieter moments, you might have a lot of fun with it. =With so many great genre films out in theaters right now, however, you would probably be better served with something else.