Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Distributor: Lionsgate Films
Director: Patrick Hughes
Writer: Tom O’Connor
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Élodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Kirsty Mitchell, Richard E. Grant
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rating: R
The genre of comedy has become increasingly weak in any film not directed by Stephen Wright.  Usually bogged in half-witted obscene material that would only seem fitting to the tastes and sensibilities of substance-abusing college students, it’s a genre that I largely avoid unless conditions suggest I do otherwise. Casting Sam Jackson and Ryan Reynolds across each other suggests that I do otherwise. All right, let’s give it another go.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Lots of bloody gun violence. The body count gets pretty high throughout the action sequences. An early off-screen execution of a wife and child.
Language/Crude Humor: Constant strong profanity throughout, sometimes in Spanish and French. Sam Jackson is in this movie, remember?
Sexual Content: Some brief lascivious shots of women’s bodies, but no nudity. A few kissing scenes.
Drug/Alcohol Use: Some scenes depict alcohol consumption.
Spiritual Content: None.
Other Negative Themes: Some talk from Kincaid about his justification for his violent lifestyle might set some viewers off.
Positive Content: Teamwork, forgiveness, and redemption are themes explored. Both Bryce and Kincaid have moral boundaries that they will not cross despite them both being professional killers.

Review

Patrick Hughes’ The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a comedy of contrasts. Law vs. Criminality. Unbridled nihilism vs. Fixed moral objectivism. Pre-calculation vs. Spontaneity. Chaos vs. Peace. Reservation vs. Passion. An unstoppable force teams up with an immovable object. What else can possibly follow but bedlam?
Do not think that this marks the film with the honor of high art, dear reader. What is on offer here is nothing short of wild, nonsensical, irreverent, distractive action comedy schlock. All the clichés are here. From the shootouts, chases, and witty banter to keep the narrative from getting too serious to the duo of hot-headed braggarts doing everything in their power to one up each other, this will certainly satisfy your summer action flick craving should you have happened to miss Baby Driver a few months ago.
What’s on offer from screenwriter Tom O’Connor is simple enough. The story revolves around a chance meeting between three contrarian entities manifested in a notorious hitman named Darius Kincaid (Samuel Jackson), a heartless war criminal named Vladislav Dukhovich (the seediest Gary Oldman outside of Dracula), and a former triple-A rated bodyguard named Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who never misses an opportunity to tell people about his lost triple-A rating to anyone willing to listen.
Dukhovich has a seemingly indispensable militia of cronies who systematically pick off any and all potential witnesses whose testimony could put him away for good. Being a hard-boiled hitman who’s had more than his fair share of brushes with death, Kincaid is the final and most likely option to survive the trip to the Hague to testify against Dukhovich. Since conventional means of protection have all proved futile, greenhorn agent Amelia Roussel (Élodie Yung) enlists her estranged ex-boyfriend Bryce in hopes that the one right tool will have a greater rate of success than a bunch of wrong tools.

There are actually two romantic subplots going on in this tale, which is quite impressive considering all things. Bryce takes on the task of protecting a seasoned hitman – a job he would never do under any other circumstances – in clandestine hopes at repairing his relationship with Roussel and explicit hopes at restoring his triple-A status that was lost along with the life of his client from two years ago. Kincaid agrees to testify against Dukhovich – a job he would never do under any other circumstances – in exchange for the liberation of his incarcerated wife Sonia (an unprecedentedly ferocious Salma Hayek).
This all comfortably allows for a light-hearted but constantly violent comedy romp with full-throttle chases, slapstick physical comedy with some remarkable stunt work, and witty banter that never feels out of place. There are moments when it gets too ugly for its own good. There is one scene fairly early on in which a man’s wife and son are executed in front of him (the violence is off-screen, mind you, but still). Later in the second act is a slightly less brutal electrocution torture scene making a shout out to Lethal Weapon that is eased by Reynold’s Deadpool-inspired witticisms. After having made his bones in The Expendables 3, Patrick Hughes knows his way around a big-scale action sequence and does some impressive work here in a few venues. From waterways to rooftops, the thrills are as fun as one would expect from a summer action movie offer, though they sometimes go on a bit too long. My eyes started to glaze over after a while.
Of course, the great take away from the film is the piping hot chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds. Reynolds plays the straight man as well as he can, and Jackson plays…well, Jackson plays Jackson. This is the salty-mouthed, over-the-top, borderline insane gunslinger that we’ve all come to know and love. Jackson arguably gives his most memorable performance since Pulp Fiction here, and Reynolds is perfectly fine letting him run away with the movie. There is even a moment in which Jackson gives a bit of a Jules Winnfield-esque philosophical challenge in which he asks “Who’s worse? Those who kill evil motherf***ers, or those who protect evil motherf***ers?”

While Reynolds may be the title’s reference, this is Jackson’s movie through and through. This is most evident in that all of Reynold’s best lines and moments are in response to whatever Jackson is doing. Whether it’s making wry commentary on the havoc Jackson’s character is wreaking directly behind him or giving catty references to the character of Jackson’s whole acting career (“He has single-handedly ruined the word motherf***er. How do you do that?!”), Jackson drives the whole plot from start to finish, even while the two come to terms with each other in their remarkable differences.
If you know anything about either of these two stars and summer action comedies, dear reader, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting here – nothing more; nothing less. It won’t win any awards or probably be remembered outside of the bargain bins by this time next year, but it can certainly keep us distracted until the end-of-the-year promises roll out. Certainly worth the price of admission if you’re looking to laugh after a long week this month.

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Positives

+ Jackson’s and Reynold’s chemistry + Fun use of musical cues + Nice editing + Great stuntwork

Negatives

- Overwrought action sequences - Clichéd - Gets too dark at times

The Bottom Line

It’s no BABY DRIVER, but it gets the job done for the time being.

 

7.6

Tyrone Barnes

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