“The Hitman’ s Bodyguard” (2017)
Running Time: 118 minutes
Written by: Tom O’Connor
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Featuring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek
Michael Bryce: “I’m a triple A rated executive protection agent and you’re the most wanted hitman in the world. My job is to keep you out of harm’s way.”
[Kincaid starts laughing, looking annoyed Bryce punches him in the face]
Darius Kincaid: “Shit! What the fuck?!”
Was anyone really waiting for this movie? It seems like an uninspiring idea at first glance, but in reality this is an action movie that harkens back to a simpler time that echoes action stars of the late 1980s and 1990s, before the Bourne’s and Wicks took control of the genre, when it was the force of personality that drove a movie through any plot issues, there was little time for nuance or even stories that made sense – with all that, ladies and gentlemen, I give you “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (2017).
This is a bloody R-rated mess of a movie featuring newly minted action king, Ryan Reynolds (thanks in no small part to “Deadpool” (2016)) and his wise cracking anarchy inducing co-star, the always-affable Samuel L. Jackson, with a wonderfully energetic Salma Hayek as well as fiendishly evil Gary Oldman (resurrecting his Russian accent from his role in Air Force One (1997)) in great supporting roles. Its a killer cast featuring a script from the highly rated blacklist that takes the best unproduced scripts floating around Hollywood at a given time.
Bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is hired to protect a Japanese arms dealer. All apparently goes well, but the dealer is shot in the head at the last minute. Two years later, Bryce has fallen into disgrace and ekes out a living protecting drug-addicted corporate executives. Meanwhile, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), the ruthless and bloodthirsty dictator of Belarus, is put on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Court of Justice. The prosecution is unable to make headway against him, as they cannot substantiate their allegations with physical evidence and Dukhovich assassinates any witnesses who could do so. The prosecution’s last hope is notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), who agrees to testify against Dukhovich in exchange for the exoneration of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), who is currently incarcerated.
From here the plot becomes a pretty much standard chase movie with not only the henchman of Dukhovich after the duo of Bryce and Kincaid, but Interpol after them as well. The pair who hate each other on first meeting become quick allies as well as fast friends, as you would expect they solve each others problems including Bryce’s issues with his love life – its all pretty standard and would make for a pretty trite movie, except it is the winning as well as quick mouthed dialogue of leads Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson that make the enduring two hours of run time even a little bearable. If you have seen any of Reynolds’s previous movies you have come to expect an extremely quick wit as well as a quicker mouth, he is able to string funny lines together like few leading men can, while not seeming to be a routine thing for him at all. However, it is with a sparring partner like Jackson that really helps sell this relationship and so to the movie itself.
When you are producing an action movie that has no real inherent originality it is important to cast it extremely well as well employing actors that bring some sense of identity to their roles, not only in the leads but also in their supporting cast. While this movie has employed two expertly suited actors in the lead it is the supporting cast that helps sell what could have been a mediocre action movie. The stand out in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” as well as someone who pretty much steals the entire movie is the fantastic Salma Hayek. As Kincaid’s (Jackson) wife Hayek actually spends pretty much the entire movie in a cell spitting rejoinders to whomever she comes across, except for a flashback scene that has to be seen to be believed – I think I can honestly say I have never seen her this animated both verbally as well as physically in any of her previous roles – she is extremely fun to behold.
It might be reductive to simply say that this is yet another buddy comedy movie that smells like any other buddy action film since “48 Hours” (1982) with a black guy and a white guy proving that after some initial bad feelings they really are two peas in a pod – but that’s what it is, and really this cast deserves so much more than that, it certainly going into it feels like there should be more to this movie than what we are ultimately left with. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” also owes a large debt to the Martin Brest directed “Midnight Run” (1988) , one of the greatest buddy comedy films of all time, which still influences action as well as comedy movies right up to this very day. Now of you are going to riff or pay homage to a timeless classic you had better do it well, unfortunately this movie lacks the reasons to do this and instead heavy handily just rips pieces straight from it, which is a shame.
The director Patrick Hughes when looking at his past is not a director that cares for subtlety or even exploring any kind of themes within his own work, this could be down to the type of movies he has worked on or it could be a case of opportunity – one cannot really tell. In terms of the writer of this screenplay, Tom O’Connor, which is the latest in a long line of screenplays that have been produced that were atop the vaunted Hollywood blacklist. It turns out that it is not a precursor to success to be on top of that list because we have seen to many produced that have not been good at all, which again is a shame as it thrusts not only inexperienced directors but also writers into the public eye with little knowledge on what to do when their films turn out to be less than spectacular. Once again I find it a crime to have a cast that consists of Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek who are all masters of playing comedy as well as action, but this is the movie we end up with, a real tragedy.
It really is hard to recommend actualy going out to the movies to see this, as you will probably not be rewarded commensurate to what you will have to pay for to see “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, so I would say wait for it to come to DVD/Blu-ray or on a streaming service.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is out this week only in cinemas.