A flawed love letter to every absurd action comedy of the 1990s.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a film that finds itself sitting comfortable in the mid-level arena of modern day action films. With its set pieces neither impressive nor poor, it lacks the rhythm and visual artistry found in films like John Wick, Atomic Blonde, or The Raid, and feels more related to over-the-top, goofy ’90s action flicks like Broken Arrow or Bad Boys. But much like director Patrick Hughes’ previous film, The Expendables 3, the film’s set pieces turn out to be little more than obstacle courses for the film’s stars to run through.
While over half the run time in The Hitman’s Bodyguard is dedicated to a series of chaotic and ridiculous action sequences, the other half of the film is all about quick cuts to Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds constantly arguing and yelling at each other, usually about who’s the better killer of the two. It’s important then to go into The Hitman’s Bodyguard with the right expectations, knowing that your whole enjoyment of the movie will rest and die on how much fun you think you can have watching Jackson and Reynolds spar verbally and physically for almost two hours.
Fortunately, both Jackson and Reynolds have managed to hone their onscreen personas throughout their careers, and the way that Reynolds’ sarcastic attitude butts heads with Jackson’s flamboyant cockiness leads to more laughs than anyone could rightly expect. The fact that The Hitman’s Bodyguard manages to stay genuinely entertaining for as long as it does is a testament to the charisma of both Reynolds and Jackson on screen, especially since what should have been a tight 90-minute action-comedy winds up being unnecessarily stretched closer to two hours.
We’re introduced to Reynolds’ Michael Bryce on the day his life changes forever, when his status as an AAA-certified bodyguard to high-profile targets is tarnished as a result of the unexpected murder of a rich arms dealer he’d been hired to protect. Cut to two years later, and Bryce is spending every day driving cheap getaway cars instead of his preferred Jaguars, while protecting mid-level, drug-addicted lawyers from their pursuers as opposed to the global titans he’d been paid by before.
But Bryce is given one last shot at saving his reputation when he’s hired by his ex-girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung), an up-and-coming Interpol agent, to guard Jackson’s Darius Kincaid – a world-renowned hitman who shares a bad professional history with Michael – for the 24 hours leading up to when Darius will be called upon as a witness against a dangerous political dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Of course, Dukhovich will do anything in his power to keep Darius – the one witness still alive and capable of pinning him publicly to various, different murderous acts – from making it to court alive. And what follows is a predictably convoluted and messy journey with Michael and Darius through the English countryside and Amsterdam where they are being constantly pursued and shot at by Dukhovich’s forces.
While Reynolds and Jackson are the only real reasons to see The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the film boasts one hilarious supporting turn by Salma Hayek as Sonia, Darius’ independent and fierce wife, for whom he would sacrifice everything to save. She gives the same kind of self-aware performance that Reynolds and Jackson do, which is to say that instead of shying away from or ignoring the inherent goofiness of the film’s plot and characters, the trio dive headfirst into them.
They are the only truly memorable aspects of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which will still likely to go down as one of the more forgettable films of the year so far. Hughes’ commitment to ensuring the film’s comedy is its main focus manages to mostly make up for his stale direction of the action sequences. Although, by the time that Jackson and Reynolds are embarking on their fifth or sixth straight chase sequence, the film’s action can’t help but begin to feel mind-numbingly repetitive and boring, especially as The Hitman’s Bodyguard somehow finds a way to pack in more endings than The Return of the King.