The Hitman's Bodyguard is a mediocre action flick elevated by the talent and comedic chemistry of Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a triple A rated executive protection agent with a loving girlfriend, luxurious house, and Jaguar all his own - until one of his clients is killed while under his protection. Two years later, Michael has lost the girlfriend, the house, and the car, as well as that triple A rating he was so proud of. Instead, he's resorted to protecting anyone who will hire him. Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), meanwhile, is a professional hitman who made a mistake and landed in Interpol's custody - one for them to offer him a deal to protect his wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), in return for testimony against the President of Belarus, the notorious dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman).
However, Dukhovich's reach extends well across Europe and when Interpol is compromised, Michael's ex-girlfriend, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Élodie Yung), ropes him into protecting Darius Kincaid and escorting the hitman to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands to testify. Unfortunately, Michael and Darius have a history - all of it violent - and it's just as likely they'll kill each other as evade Dukhovich's men. With a deadline hovering over their heads to appear in court and an adversarial dynamic between them, Michael and Darius must try to work together to survive and reach The Hague in time.
The Hitman's Bodyguard is helmed by Australian director Patrick Hughes, who's best known for 2014's The Expendables 3, from a script by Tom O'Connor, whose only other writing credit is the Bruce Willis-led action flick Fire with Fire. The Hitman's Bodyguard is an action comedy that works as a vehicle for its stars to display their talents in both arenas. A prolific Hollywood veteran, Samuel L. Jackson has starred in all manner of films, but is perhaps most well known for bringing levity to what could otherwise be overly serious action movies. Ryan Reynolds, meanwhile, has stuck mainly to various types of comedy - whether they lean more toward romance or action - but particularly hit his stride with the R-rated action and comedy in Deadpool. The Hitman's Bodyguard is a mediocre action flick elevated by the talent and comedic chemistry of Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.
In terms of the film's action, The Hitman's Bodyguard is rather run of the mill. While there are some interesting distinctions between the fighting styles of Michael and Darius - the bodyguard is focused on protection and stealth, whereas the hitman has a flashy and deadly style - these differences are heavy-handedly brought up between the characters to give them something else to bicker about. The movie's larger action set pieces include various car, motorcycle, and boat chases utilizing the European setting of the film, but aren't innovative enough so as to be distinguishable from other Europe-set action films. They're serviceable on their own, but work better when used to develop or highlight aspects of the two main characters.
In fact, it's the odd couple dynamic between Michael and Darius that gets the most laughs and brings the only real heart to the film. Both Reynolds and Jackson have proven many times before that they can excel in action and comedy, so it comes as no surprise that both actors are able to bring exactly what's needed to their respective roles. Reynolds perfectly plays the straight-laced, rule-following bodyguard as the straight man to Jackson's wild and free-wheeling hitman with a moral code. Jackson's Darius brings just as much heart as humor to the film, with the venerable actor able to give dimension to his character. Reynolds is slightly less successful in doing so with Michael - though that's largely due to the limits of the script - but he offers a compelling performance. Still, Reynolds and Jackson bounce off each other well, and make for an especially comedic pairing when both performers play to their strengths. While The Hitman's Bodyguard attempts to dive deeper into the dichotomy between the natures of Michael and Darius by posing the question of who's the good guy between the two of them, the film doesn't reach a satisfactory conclusion on the matter - again, due to the script.
Beyond the core duo, however, the supporting cast of The Hitman's Bodyguard are made up of one-dimensional stock characters. Dukhovich is a flat villain, with all the cruelness expected of a genocidal dictator on trial in an international court - the character is so one dimensional the film doesn't even take the time to explain what exact crimes he stands accused of. Oldman brings as much gravitas to the role as possible for a villain who largely operates as a puppetmaster pulling the strings to keep the story moving forward. As for the two love interests of the main characters, Sonia and Amelia largely exist to be the focus of their respective boyfriend's love. For Sonia, she's the feisty badass who can go toe-to-toe with Darius, while Amelia has somewhat more dimension insofar as her relationship with Michael is complicated by their different professions. Still, Sonia and Ameila are half-hearted attempts at developed female characters who, thanks to the powerhouse actresses portraying them, could have lead the film on their own, but are instead relegated to the sidelines.
As is likely apparent, The Hitman's Bodyguard is weakest when it comes to the film's script. O'Connor lays the groundwork for some compelling and interesting ideas to be explored in the movie, only for those ideas to take a back seat to the action, the humor, the comedy beats of Michael and Darius, the characters' love lives, and their own adversarial relationship. Any attempts to put a new spin on classic action comedy tropes are negated by the film playing straight into many of those tropes, especially in the third act. While that makes The Hitman's Bodyguard a fairly standard action comedy on its own, hitting all the major necessary beats to keep viewers entertained, it's a routine and unsurprising ride. Perhaps the biggest surprises of The Hitman's Bodyguard come from cinematographer Jules O'Loughlin, who experiments with style and color during certain flashback sequences - though these scenes largely get lost in the bigger action set pieces of the film.
So, with writer O'Connor and director Hughes creating the sketch of an entertaining action comedy in The Hitman's Bodyguard, it's left to Reynolds and Jackson to bring the film to life - and thankfully they do. The movie is entertaining as summer popcorn viewing, but fails to innovate in any real way beyond finally casting Reynolds and Jackson in a film together. Their odd couple dynamic is the core of the film, for better and for worse, making for an especially fun duo at the expense of the story and supporting characters. To be sure, The Hitman's Bodyguard is a fun ride for fans of action comedies and/or Reynolds and Jackson, but both actors have funnier, more original films under their belts.
The Hitman's Bodyguard is now playing in U.S. theaters. It runs 118 minutes and is rated R for strong violence and language throughout.
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- The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) release date: Aug 18, 2017