THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD – Review
Ah, it’s almost that quiet (well quieter) time at the old multiplex, as Summer mayhem winds down and the end-of-the-year award bait anxiously awaits. You know… what with Labor Day here in just a couple of weeks. But what’s that rumbling in the distance? Why, it’s another car-smashin’ action flick, charging in with guns ablazin’! Is it another comics-based thriller, or the exciting newest installment of a spy franchise? No, but it’s pretty familiar, as it’s another adrenalin-fueled fable concerning two really different guys, who’ve got to team up to start a huge threat. And, in the tradition of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in 48 HOURS and Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the RUSH HOUR trilogy (oops, maybe another’s on the way), these fellas, besides their personalities, are, well, of different ethnicities. Perhaps this film will start a dialogue and help this divided nation. Aw, come on, it’s not DETROIT. No, it’s two Marvel heroes let loose for some R-rated rampaging in THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD.
The title character is actually Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), who we first meet at the top of his game, prime of his life really, as the head of a triple A-rated personal security agency. This day that rating is flushed away when his current employer become his late employer. Cut to the present and Michael is still in the biz, though with a far less classy firm, and handling far less classy clients. Next we meet his former girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung) who has just been given a top assignment at Interpol. Notorious assassin for hire Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) has been captured. But he’s not off to prison. They need to take him from London to the Hague where he will testify against a vicious former Russian official, the genocidal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). So, why is Darius doing this? Civic Duty? Yeah, right! He’s cut a deal, not for himself. He wants to free his incarcerated wife Sonja (Salma Hayek), who’s stuck in a cell in Amsterdam. Of course disaster strikes the Kincaid convoy (there must be a mole at work), and Amelia and Darius barely escape to a “safe house”. Her only choice is to call in a third party, so she dials up her ex, Michael. Though they’ve had violent dust-ups in the past, Michael agrees to get Darius to the big trial. But with Dukovich’s thugs and the compromised Interpol on their heels, can they get there in time, as they said on the old “Odd Couple” TV show, “without driving each other crazy”?
After scoring a huge hit as DEADPOOL, Reynolds gets into a similar groove with his motor-mouth, snarky “hired gun”. And once again, that comic timing serves him well, although it’s tempered with a touch of sadness as Bryce confronts past regrets and assumptions while dodging shrapnel. As does Jackson, who also has the gift of gab, though peppered with many, many “MF-bombs”, in almost a parody of some previous roles (a couple Tarantino ones come immediately to mind). Plus, his hitman becomes almost a “life coach” to Michael prompting him to change his current course. Oh, and his glare still speaks volumes. Another grimace is provided by Oldman, also in a take-off of some previous baddies (he’s his AIR FORCE ONE villain with higher aspirations). Of course, Vlad is pure banal evil hotwired with a swift sadistic streak. Yung, as the lone “good cop” or agent, graduates from her breakout small screen role as Elektra on Netflix’s “Daredevil”, and does a superb job with the underwritten character (after the first 20 minutes she’s regulated to the “woman on the phone” cliché’). Unfortunately Amelia has none of the flash of the sultry, and often scary, Sonja played with fiery energy by the sizzling Salma Hayek. She’s explodes off the screen, real 3D without those glasses, especially in a flashback showing how she met her hubby. No wonder he risks everything to free her, although many might think, “I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley”, while others would hope for such an encounter.
Patrick Hughes, fresh off directing the destruction in THE EXPENDABLES 3, once again choreographs the chaos in this two-fisted European travelogue of mayhem. Oddly, the action becomes more than a touch tedious. The exchanges between the two leads are often engaging, but it’s as if the film makes looked at their time pieces and said ,”Oh, oh. Nearly ten minutes have gone by without another car chase…let’s go, schedule to keep!”. You can only watch a vehicle blasted to bits so many times before the novelty wears very thin. Also, the JOHN WICK-style nastiness (point-blank shots to noggins, throat slitting, etc) dilutes some the high-spirited comedy (guess they wanted to guarantee that R-rating). Oh, and could the Interpol mole be any more obvious (unless they added a facial blemish)? This culminates into an ending that doesn’t know quite when to stop trying to top itself (liked seeing that semi-truck flip in THE DARK KNIGHT, well…). Some of the locales are lovely during a few brief tranquil seconds, until the carnage pummels the viewer into a stupor. Sam and Ryan are a winning team, but they deserve a better, more original story than THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD. And squeeze in a lot more Salma next time, will ya’?
3 Out of 5