The Hitman’s Bodyguard
An unabashed ’80s/90s throwback antagonistic buddy action movie, albeit lacking the finessing and sharp dialogue of the master it aspires to, Shane Black. Samuel L Jackson, who appeared in a few of those movies, is the loud, outgoing, emotionally-contented hitman Darius Kincaid, Ryan Reynolds the careful, measured, reserved bodyguard Michael Bryce. And, given the title, you can tell how it will escalate from there.
Except that Reynolds has to backtrack somewhat, from the down-at-heel guy who’s lost his mojo and leaves bottles of piss in his car, in order to be Sam’s straight man. Nevertheless, they make for an effective duo, and we haven’t had many of these types of movies lately (Wahlberg and Washington in 2 Guns springs to mind), so the fact that Hitman’s isn’t very original or stylistically audacious doesn’t matter too much.
That said, Patrick Hughes’ work is far more engaged and kinetic here than in The Expendables 3, and he may yet make good on the promise of his debut Red Hill; we dodged a bullet when he replaced Jeff Wadlow (Kick Ass 2). Some sequences, such as a resigned Bryce having a beer while all hell breaks loose around him, border on the inspired, although the action is more commonly of the perfunctorily-effective quips and punches/stabbings/shootings type.
Screenwriter Tom O’Connor hasn’t had anything prior of note produced (a straight-to-video Bruce Willis movie – all but the only kind of Bruce Willis movie these days – Fire with Fire) but now seems relatively hot, with Cumberbatch Cold War thriller Ironbark on the starting blocks and The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard promised.
Which, if it matches the characters from the first, could be a lot of fun, since Salma Hayek more than steals the movie whenever the action cuts back to her prison cell. There’s a vaguely interesting stab at moral relativism in respect of the protagonists’ respective career paths (“Question for a higher power: who is more wicked? He who kills evil motherfuckers, or he who protects them?“), essentially belying the notion that anyone who happily murders people for a living is unlikely to be a well-balanced individual (less still lives for love).
Kincaid is your typically ameliorated Hollywood version of someone who does bad things you’re expected to like, a bit like Rudd’s cat burglar in Ant-Man, but with added blood on his hands. He only does these things for good reasons (to the extent he’s given an excruciating confessional in the climactic courtroom scene, explaining that his career got its start when his good Christian preacher father was murdered in his church – try having a problem with that, moralistic audience!)
Gary Oldman’s walking on cheque books for his forgettable Russian Belarus ex-president and dictator. Élodie Yung is too permanently on edge as Bryce’s Interpol agent ex to really appeal. As soon as Joaquim de Almeida (Our Brand is Crisis) appears as her superior, you know he’s a bad guy and in cahoots with Oldman. Richard E Grant has a great cameo early on that gives us full manic REG; he’s a coked-up Bryce client in the firing line, one who wastes no time after being rescued before he starts complaining (“It smells like ass in here“).
I suspect Reynolds improv’d many of his lines, given his Deadpool credentials and the report that The Hitman’s Bodyguard was rewritten as a comedy a few weeks before production began. Of a heart attack victim client: “I can protect someone from bullets and explosions. There’s nothing I can do against indiscriminate use of mayo for 68 straight years“. And if “Why are you always yelling?!” about sums up the tone of the movie, Jackson and Reynolds spark appealingly off each other, so the chore with the sequel will be to ensure there’s sufficient reasons for them to do some more mutual yelling.