Review: The Spirit of Renny Harlin (and the Abs of Ryan Reynolds) Live On in 'The Hitman's Bodyguard'
It’s like this: The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a seriously fun movie, and there are times that it’s actually even good. There are other times when it’s very, very bad, but even when it’s terrible, it remains consistently entertaining.
Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a corporate bodyguard who protects mostly evil men, and who falls on hard times after one of his clients is killed. Samuel J. Jackson plays Darius Kincaid, an assassin who kills bad people. Kincaid, captured by Interpol, is offered a deal that would allow his wife (Salma Hayek, who plays 90’s Salma Hayek) to get out of prison if he testifies against Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman in full-on Gary Oldman mode), the fascist dictator of Belarus and a violent war criminal. Everyone who has offered to testify against Dukhovich, however, has wound up dead, and thanks to a mole within Interpol, the same fate is set to befall the unkillable Kincaid until an Interpol agent — and Bryce’s ex-girlfriend (Elodie Yung) — pairs Bryce with Kincaid as his bodyguard. They have 36 hours to get to the Hague and testify against Dukhovich, and they have about 50 of Dukhovich’s redshirt assassins on their tail.
It is a preposterous film, one of those movies where characters can miraculously walk through machine-gun fire as though walking through raindrops. Director Patrick Hughes blows up everything; barely five minutes goes by without a massive gun battle and a huge body count. The writing — from screenwriter Tom O’Connor — is at times Redbox level, and the plot often makes very little sense. It’s not interested in telling a story as much as it is in getting from one ludicrous action sequence to the next.
That said, Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson have fantastic buddy-cop chemistry. Reynolds plays the by-the-book straight-man, while Jackson is the assassin who just wings it, liberally peppering everything he says with a “motherfucker.” They are a genuinely fun duo, and because they spend nearly the entire film together, the banter never flags, even as bullets are flying. It has a certain Renny Harlin throwback vibe; it is balls-out stupid, but it’s never boring. If you like Sam Jackson playing a motherfucking Sam Jackson character and Ryan Reynolds playing a wiseass Ryan Reynolds character, it’s wildly entertaining, even if a third of the lines leave viewers cringing.
To both its credit (and its detriment, I suppose), it’s exactly what the movie trailer is selling: A big, dumb fun cartoon action flick with a few hilarious lines, a lot of clunkers, and a never-ending spray of bullets. For an end-of-the-summer release in this political climate? It’s solid escapist entertainment that somehow hits the spot, and a movie that I managed to enjoy even after watching the brilliant, perfectly executed, hilarious and in every way superior Lucky Logan (review forthcoming).
Full Disclosure regarding my biases toward Ryan Reynolds: I saw this on TV Tropes the other day, and it is not inaccurate. I don’t know whether to be proud or embarrassed.