A film review by Craig J. Koban August 30, 2017


2017, R, 118 mins.


Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce  /  Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid  /  Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid  /  Gary Oldman as Vladislav Dukhovich  /  Elodie Yung as Amelia Ryder

Directed by Patrick Hughes  /  Written by Tom O'Connor




THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD works sensationally well as a showpiece for its two lead stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson; every time they share the same space in this new buddy action comedy the film coasts by on the strength of their shared charisma.    

Unfortunately, nearly everything built around these actors is on regurgitated genre autopilot and becomes louder, dumber, and exponentially more generic with each new scene that progresses.  That, and as far as action comedies go, the jokes and pratfalls inconsistently hit their intended marks and the mayhem presented is so chaotically choppy in terms of its overall choreography that they begin to blur together with a repetitive sameness.  All in all, remove Reynolds and Jackson and all we are left with in THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD is something barely achieving the moniker of a disposable VOD flick. 

That, and perhaps it could be aptly said that both stars here are just phoning in their respective characters that adhere to obligatory types: Reynolds plays the Ryan Reynolds-ian wise-cracking and risk-taking motormouth and Jackson plays the Samuel L. Jackson-ian multiple F-bomb spewing, high volume anti-hero.  Reynolds appears as Michael Bryce, a "type A executive protection agent" that prides himself on having never lost any high level client on a mission.  This guy takes his job and his stature within it as serious as a heart attack, which definitely shows in one of the opening sequences of the film, during which time he's meticulously maneuvering a highly sought after Japanese arms dealer safely to the airport.  He manages to get his client on the airplane safe and sound, which leads to him giving the audience a large self-congratulatory smile to the camera...that immediately turns to a frown when a sniper's bullet crashes through the plane's window and eliminates the dealer. 



We then flashforward two years and Michael has seemingly lost everything: his flawless reputation as a high stakes bodyguard, his dignity, and hell, even his girlfriend, Interpol agent Amelia Ryder (French actress Elodie Yung), who he incorrectly blamed for accidentally tipping off that Japanese arms dealer's location at the airport, leading to his assassination.  Now down on his luck and with an industry reputation that has crashed and burned, Michael has now reduced himself to taking demeaning side escort jobs.  Fate steps in, as it always does, when his old flame offers him a lucrative job that could put him back on the right track: He's to secure and take an incarcerated hitman, Darius Kincaid (Jackson), to Hague to testify against a Belarusian dictator (Gary Oldman) on the charges of war crimes.  Predictably, Darius doesn't make Michael's life easy while on his mission. 

As mentioned, one of the only real pleasures to be had while watching THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD is to witness the decent chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson, both of whom seem to be enjoying playing off of one another in what's essentially, again, throwaway roles that both could perform in their sleep.  Their rat-ta-tat profanity laced banter helps keep things afloat, and Jackson in particular is given free reign to use his now iconic 12 letter variation of one particular vulgar word, which he joyously spews out here like it were going out of style (THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD - alongside its high bloodletting quotient - more than earns its R rating).  Reynold's perfunctory schtick here - something that I've frequently criticized the actor for in past films - is a tad less winning than Jackson's playing up to his stereotypical casting.  That's not to say that Reynold's isn't a source of some of the film's best laughs, though: During one especially grating car trip with Darius - who's aggressively singing a blues number, much to Michael's annoyance - Michael breaks out into an impromptu rendering of Ace of Bass's "I Saw The Sign" to counter his companion's irksome tendencies.  Later, and to make matters more uncomfortable, Darius begins singing alongside a van filled with Italian nuns in yet another effort to mentally break Michael's resolve.  Those scenes are a riot. 

Unfortunately, the rest of the film's humor is of the scattershot and sophomoric variety that frequently lands with a resounding thud.  This mostly has to do with the fact that THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD has an overall tone that's so widely all over the map that it becomes positively distracting at times.  There are some instances when it's aiming for cartoonish levels of spirited tomfoolery with Reynolds and Jackson, only then to segue into macabre moments of sadistic violence that seem like deleted scenes from other films altogether.  Within the first five minutes of the story, for example, we have Oldman's vile and sadistic madman pointing a gun at a helpless mother and child and kills them in cold blood.  Later in the film Michael is accidentally thrown straight through a car windshield after Darius breaks too fast...and he jumps up relatively unscathed to offer a sarcastic quip like he's occupying a screwball slapstick comedy.  There are times - more often than not - when THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD really has no idea what kind of film it's trying to be.  It opts for a kitchen sink approach of throwing as much incongruent material on the screen as possible in a desperate hopes that it all cohesively sticks together.   

The only thing we are really left with here are the action scenes, which could have been a saving grace to the whole problematic proceedings.  Mournfully, director Patrick Hughes (who helmed the last EXPENDABLES sequel) favors - as way, way too many action filmmakers do these days - hyper edited flurries of fisticuffs, car chases, and gun battles to the point where clarity seems to have been thrown out the window.  Sans one mid-story sequence - a fairly virtuoso one that showcases Michael creatively using seemingly every tool in a hardware store's stock to take out a violent pursuer that's kind of breathlessly crafted - THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD seems bereft of unleashing action scenes with exhilarating personality.  There's a third act boat chase that has Hughes cutting frantically back and forth with such disorganized incoherence that I frankly was struggling to make out the basic geography of all the participants.  Films like this - and many others - could learn a thing or two from watching the last two JOHN WICK films and the very recent ATOMIC BLONDE about how to properly engineer and execute action. 

I think if you like Reynolds and Jackson then you'll probably come out of THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD modestly appreciating it.  Anyone else that's simply looking for an easily digestible throwback action comedy in the vibe of yesteryear will probably eat this up.  I guess that I have more discerning tastes when it comes to these actors and the material they're appearing in.  There's nothing inherently wrong with buddy action comedies that are trying to be in the mould of what came before, but THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD is so paint-by-numbers and on autopilot that it becomes hard not to see it as a wasted opportunity for its bankable and likeable actors.  There's a startling lack of creativity on display here, and when it boils right down to it if it weren't for the likes of Reynolds and Jackson this film would have never seen the theatrical release light of day.  And because of that, it doesn't deserve your 12-plus bucks and two hours in a cinema. 

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