When word first circulated that Deadpool and Nick Fury were teaming up with Sirius Black, Elektra, and THE Santanico Pandemonium in a film helmed by the director of The Expendables 3 (no guilty pleasure here, I love those flicks), my inner-geek managed a triple lindy inside my heart. Ryan Reynolds is on a career resurgence, and Samuel L. Jackson might not stretch much as an actor film-to-film, but his schtick of essentially portraying varying states of his heightened persona is an art unto itself. Drop these two uproarious thespians into a tailor-made tale full of bullets, F-bombs, as well as general mayhem and The Hitman’s Bodyguard immediately bounced to the top of my must-see 2017 list. But now that shots have officially been fired, does it meet expectations?
Michael Bryce (Reynolds) was a AAA-rated protection specialist until a lone gunman suspiciously took out one of his premier clients with an impossible shot. Though he meticulously calculated every detail, Michael was unable to ensure his contract’s life. Two years later, Bryce has taken to slumming his services to guard the coked-out lawyers of the underworld, stubbornly blaming his ex, Amelia (Elodie Yung), for his previous career blunder. He still carefully plots each potential scenario, though his “give a shit” meter has drastically rolled back its intensity. It’s perfect casting for Reynolds, as he eats through one-liners like a meth-head at a pancake rally, while getting more than a few moments to exercise his ever-evolving dramatic chops.
Darius Kincaid (Jackson), on the other hand, just rolls with it. As a master assassin, Kincaid casts preparedness to the wind and flows like a leaf in the wind, or a tornado in a trailer park. A man desperately in need of internal impulse control, Kincaid is Samuel L. Jackson’s persona amped up to full MF’ing capacity: kicking some ass and looking dope while he’s doing it. One can only assume Jackson’s agent pitched the movie as not so much a role, but an extended vacation with copious amounts of automatic weapons, vulgarity, and Salma Hayek interactions.
When Belarusian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (an almost insultingly underused Gary Oldman) is all but assured to skate away, Interpol decides to make a deal with the devil: Kincaid testifies against Dukhovich, ensuring his conviction for war crimes, and Kincaid’s wife Sofia walks (played by the perpetually underrated Salma Hayek, basking in the glow of an opportunity to drop more f-bombs than Jackson himself). Of course there are moles within Interpol, and Amelia is forced to bring in Michael to work around the system and escort her prized informant to court before Dukhovich walks (apparently continuances based on extraordinary circumstances are unheard of overseas).
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, films like The Hitman’s Bodyguard were everywhere – actors teaming up for a little cursing and carnage centered around a plot whipped up on a cocktail napkin – before time gave way to the “thinking man’s action hero”. Who doesn’t want to watch two A-level personalities known for violent vocabularies squaring off as opposing foes, forced to come together for a little do-gooder insanity? Terrorists, that’s who. Everyone else kicks back in their seats and awaits the blood-letting. And as far as team-ups go, there are few actors working today as engaging or energetic as Reynolds and Jackson.
From the opening frames of Bryce’s failed assignment, director Patrick Hughes establishes clearly that no one involved is taking this movie too seriously. It works in the film’s favor, as the script’s numerous clichés paired with complete lapses in common sense and simple physics would make this a tough sell otherwise. Tom O’Connor’s screenplay has something akin to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in its sights, but lands more on the spectrum of The Last Boy Scout in terms of aesthetic and logic.
While the action is often chaotic bliss, the poorly-executed CGI can and will completely yank you out of an otherwise enthralling shoot-out. If an explosion looks like it was created for YouTube, someone might want to jazz that puppy up for the sequel. I should be pumping my fist, not rolling my eyes. Bodyguard moves at a healthy clip for most of its runtime, but that janky CGI was like a cry for help at every frame.
Some people crave intelligence, wit, and a carefully executed story in their summer spectacles. This movie is not for you. At all. Carry on, nothing to see here. If you are, however, looking for a foul-mouthed action flick that makes no sense, has the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and harkens back to the days of the 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon sequels, you could do a whole lot worse than The Hitman’s Bodyguard, mutha f@#$%r.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek
Screenplay by Tom O’Connor
Directed by Patrick Hughes