The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Director: Patrick Hughes
Writer: Tom O'Connor
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung
Review by Mike DeAngelo:
It’s safe to say that I went into this week’s screening of The Hitman’s Bodyguard with fairly low expectations. Sure - Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson have been on a hot streak as of late, but both have made some extremely questionable Hollywood action movie choices in the recent past. With every Deadpool, Smokin’ Aces, or Mississippi Grind, Reynolds has an R.I.P.D., Green Lantern, or Self/Less. And with every Avengers, Hateful Eight, or Kingsman: The Secret Service, Jackson has XxX: The Return of Xander Cage, Old Boy (US), and The Samaritan.
Then there’s the writer and the director of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, who don’t have a decent movie between the two of them – unless you are one of the few people that considers a viewing of The Expendables 3 money and time well spent.
With all of these bad omens piling up left and right it’s hard to hold out hope, and yet, against nearly all odds, The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t an absolute disaster. In fact, at times the movie is downright thrilling and hilarious in equal measure, thanks largely to the immense chemistry and wit of the film’s leads.
It’s no surprise that Reynolds and Jackson are both extremely funny in their own right. What is surprising is how well their personalities bounce off of each other for the entire movie without becoming exhausting. While Jackson is often some version of this character in action movies (granted, this time he is a bit more ridiculous), Reynolds is finally allowed to retain his natural sense of humor rather than be forced into the humorless, smoldering action hero role that he’s tried several times, but just doesn’t fit into. Generally, he’s been forced into either the funny man role or the action hero role with no crossover. Deadpool finally proved that there’s room to be both, and thankfully, with Hitman’s Bodyguard he proves once again that Ryan Reynolds is both very funny and a very good action hero.
Outside of the main duo, there is one more surprisingly good performance that comes from Salma Hayek, who plays Jackson’s imprisoned wife, Sonia. While she was relegated mainly to roles that focused on her looks and only her looks in her younger years, she’s been starting to spread her wings with some truly surprising standout performances, starting with Beatriz at Dinner and now, of all things, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Selma’s not only surprisingly at home when she’s swearing like a sailor in both Spanish and English, she’s truly funny and terrifying.
Sadly, that’s the end of the line when it comes to decent performances. I know you’re looking at the cast and saying, “No way - Gary Oldman is always good.” In this case, he’s just plain cliché and awful as the film’s villain, Vladislav Dukhovich – yes, he’s got the crappy Eastern European accent and everything. There’s also Ryan Reynold’s love interest, played by Elodie Yung (Netflix/Marvel’s Daredevil). While she was an excellent Elktra, she’s given very little to work with here and does even less with it.
The strangest part about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the fact that the movie feels like it’s very much two separate visions at war with one another. On one hand, it feels like an early 2000’s action movie with its cliché plot, bland cinematography, & nu-metal/screamo music interludes. Then there are moments where the action feels fresh, laughs actually surprise you, and the music switches to a more modern Guardians of the Galaxy/Baby Driver vibe with classic jukebox hits integrated into the action. Judging by director Patrick Hughes’ previous outings (again, The Expendables 3), I’m guessing he’s the one pushing for the tired, old school action movie approach, while another voice was pushing for a more modern action movie.
Even with the tonal struggle, the good news is that every scene with Reynolds, Jackson, or Hayek is pretty irresistibly entertaining and they never leave the main characters for too long. So, if you’re looking for a movie with a decent amount of laughs and a surprisingly equal amount of action, you could do worse than The Hitman’s Bodyguard. You could also do a lot better – but if you’ve already seen Baby Driver & Spider-Man: Homecoming, this may be your best bet in the action/comedy department. At the very least, it’s worth a single pass to hold you over until Deadpool 2 rolls around.