“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is an outrageous buddy comedy that pairs fast talking Ryan Reynolds and the maestro of “mutha fuckkkaaa” Samuel L. Jackson. Is the premise ridiculous? Yes. Does Australian director Patrick Hughes use classy lens filtering that makes you constantly reach to clean the glasses that you aren’t wearing? Yes. Does the high stakes action leave plausibility at the door? Yes. At the conclusion of that kind of interrogation you may ask, well is there anything makes this thing worth watching? Sure. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is flimsy yes, but it’s an excuse to get Jackson and Reynolds together and see if their chemistry can distract you from looking too deeply into this unfocused odd-couple action comedy.
Infamous hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is being transported from an Interpol branch in London to The Hague to testify in International Court about the genocidal acts of Belarus dictator played by Gary Oldman. When his convoy is attacked by the dictator’s henchmen, his Interpol agent escort reaches out to her ex-boyfriend and renowned bodyguard, Michael Bryce (Reynolds) to get him there alive.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” has one overwhelming positive going for it, and that’s the chemistry of the leads Reynolds and Jackson. Quentin Tarantino has often referred to being an NFL coach with game changing players in the form of Jim Brown (his nickname for Jackson) and Joe Namath (his nickname for Christophe Waltz). Jackson waltzes into this film like one imagines that John Wayne waltzed onto the set of a Howard Hawks or John Ford Western in the 50s. The towering behemoth has developed a signature “badass” style that just makes you wan’t to start whistling the Bond theme - “Nobody Does It Better.” Thankfully the filmmakers do him the dignity of Kincaid taking a bullet to the lower leg in the beginning skirmish of the film that allows him the dignity of not doing Harrison Ford -“Crystal Skull” or Liam Neeson “Taken 3” old man running through obstacle after killer euro trash obstacle.
Michael Bryce is not Reynolds’ best recent performance. There’s something magical about the man when he’s allowed to propel himself with an infectious egomania. The rare roles that wedge him out of his reflexive fast-talking, and deeply satisfying, like the eponymous characters in “Deadpool” and “Van Wilder: Party Liaison” are well structured contemplative films. “Buried,” the subterranean soul searcher created an alchemy in its simplicity. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” shares a lot of similarity to Tony Scott riff “Safe House.” Faced with the star power of Denzel Washington, who Reynolds’ character must contain Reynolds elevates. Washington’s prisoner is a living moral quandary, and requires Reynolds most splendid and underrated performances. It’s raw, registering the shock of the situation in an authentic way. For “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” Michael Bryce is three parts the fastidious Jack Lemon “Odd Couple” icon and one part a splash of white girl post break up depression, eating ice cream by the punnet and showering in alignment with your weekly trash day.
From the moment that they’re forced together and Bryce (Reynolds) must sigh and keep it together in the face of Jackson’s extreme swagger, I repeatedly chuckled. Whether it’s watching Kincaid charm a bus full of Nuns with song, or Kincaid waltzing through a square filled with bad guys forcing Bryce to silently take them out are just the right silly tone that makes you cackle.
Hughes, who directed the outstanding Australian neo-Western “Red Hill,” does his best work in the thick of fast paced action and explosive moving conflict. Prisoner transports sliding on their nose through tight English streets, or fighting through kitchens and hardware stores in Amsterdam. The early exposition exchanges are stylistic failures.
In the same week as “The Defenders” arrived on Netflix and gave Electra the ‘Hawkeye’ in the “Avengers” treatment, this Elodie Yung is relegated to the sidelines as the easy to exploit Interpol agent and ex-girlfriend/supervisor of Reynolds’ peccadilloes, Amelia Roussel.
Salma Hayak is absolutely out of control as Jackson’s wife, Sonia Kincaid, whose being imprisoned until he’s able to testify. She’s a salty, bilingually foul-mouthed, inked, violent woman; and she’s an absolute scream.
Gary Oldman’s villain Vladislav Dukhovich is grating. Oldman’s commitment to Dukhovich’s menace is without question. Oldman completely crushes the performance as the ruthless authoritarian dictator; but the antics of Jackson and Reynolds make it feel incongruous for the film.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” when Reynolds and Jackson are on screen knows exactly what it is and succeeds in its exaggerated folly. The packaging around the film is filled with stoic faces attempting to ensure that justice be brought to a genocidal maniac. Odd indeed.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (2017)
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Written by: Tom O’Connor
Ryan Reynolds: Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson: Darius Kincaid
Gary Oldman: Vladislav Dukhovich
Salma Hayek: Sonia Kincaid
Elodie Yung: Amelia Roussel
Joaquim de Almeida: Jean Foucher