August 18, 2017
For audiences who just want to watch Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds crack wise, shoot guns, and blow stuff up, The Hitman’s Bodyguard delivers. The plot’s a little thin and the villain is more caricature than full-bodied, but who cares when everyone involved looks to be having so much fun? The movie, not unlike Looney tunes, is a live-action Wile E. Coyote homage. It’s mostly guns and explosions but possesses just the right amount of heart to assist the quiet moments and move the plot along between the carnage.
Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is one of the world’s best protection agents until a job goes horribly wrong and he loses his Triple-A rating. Darius Kincaid (Jackson) is one of the world’s deadliest assassins and the star witness for Interpol against genocidal dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). When Kincaid’s transport is ambushed, Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel (Daredevil’s Elodie Yung) suspects a mole and calls the only person she knows outside the agency capable of getting Kincaid from England to the International Criminal Court within their 27-hour window – Michael Bryce. There’s just one problem: Bryce and Kincaid have been trying to kill each other for years. But since helping Kincaid keep the deal he made with Interpol gives Bryce a shot at getting his rating back, they have to work together.
By all accounts, the Tom O’Connor script feels like it was made with an ’80s movie Mad Lib. Our protagonists must get to [specific location] by [specific time] while they [insert life lesson] and defeat [insert antagonist]. But no one going to see The Hitman’s Bodyguard is expecting a wheel reinvention; they want what’s promised: action and comedy. For that, O’Connor and director Patrick Hughes absolutely deliver.
From the jump, Hughes moves the story at a steady clip to introduce Bryce and his world before doing the same for Kincaid. Neither introduction drags or feels unnecessary, as they establish the foundation of the narrative. Granted, much of what makes these characters work is the audience’s own perceptions of these actors: Reynolds continuously plays clever, smart-mouths while Jackson is the epitome of badass. Seeing each actor in their respective roles doesn’t require for them to do much more than follow the rhythmic beats of the script: an intro conversation here and some fast hand action there and then an explosion: repeat as needed. It’s a pattern action fans know well and as it plays throughout all of Hitman, it never gets old.
Fortunately, since the success of Hitman falls on the shoulders of Reynolds and Jackson, their chemistry sizzles. Watching these two experts in the murderous arts bicker like an old married couple never gets old and, for comic book fans, is likely the closest anyone will get to seeing Nick Fury and Deadpool on-screen together. This pair makes the most of it, offering an endless supply of smart-ass and expletive-laden quips for audiences to delight in.
Offsetting the mayhem is, interestingly, a parallel story about love, which serves to create a fun break in the havoc while also moving the narrative forward. Bryce’s past relationship with Amelia is explored in contrast to Kincaid’s imprisoned wife Sonia (a fierce Salma Hayek). These explorations give both Hayek and Yung the opportunity to expand their characters beyond that of “romantic object” and present themselves as fierce individuals capable of immense harm, just like their lovers. But don’t worry, action fans – even the quiet, sincere moments involve some sort of absurd bloodshed. While those four are granted opportunities to clarify their characters beyond action tropes, only Gary Oldman is short-changed as the one-note Dukhovich whose defiant belief in his right to control his country is about all we get about him. It’s a fine, somewhat engaging performance from Oldman, but there’s nothing new going on beyond his role as the object of opposition.
For once, the marketing doesn’t lie and The Hitman’s Bodyguard is everything you expect: action, comedy, and a little bit of heart. It’s not the greatest action comedy of the year, but thanks to Jackson’s and Reynolds’s undeniable charisma and timing, it’s far from forgettable. Audiences will absolutely looking for an action-packed adventure that sees Jackson say “mother-f**ker” about as often as bodies hit the floor will absolutely get their money’s worth. And what more can we possibly ask for.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5.
A version of this review originally appeared on ElementsofMadness.com.