Movie Review: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (R)
The idea of charismatic motormouth Ryan Reynolds teaming up with charismatic motormouth Samuel L. Jackson for a buddy action comedy seems like a win-win, a no-brainer of epic proportions. Alas, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” feels like an echo of much better movies. If only this film were half as entertaining as its lively marketing campaign (admittedly, that “The Bodyguard” parody poster is pretty great).
In “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” Reynolds is celebrated bodyguard Michael Bryce, a pro who’s fallen on hard times. Bryce’s skills are put to the ultimate test when he’s assigned to escort Darius Kincaid (great name!), a blowhard, streetwise hitman who’s ready to blow the whistle on the most undesirable of undesirables (Gary Oldman in “The Professional” mode) to The International Court of Justice. Of course, in the early goings, these two headstrong personalities can’t stand one another, but they’ll have to put aside their differences if they’re going to stay alive long enough to make it to trial.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is pretty much what it looks like: a buddy action comedy with obvious shades of “Lethal Weapon,” “48 Hours,” and “Rush Hour.” And it also offers up more than few nods to the vastly superior ’80s gem “Midnight Run.” In the end, though, this film plays more like “Lethal Weapon IV,” “Rush Hour 3,” “Another 48 Hours,” “and “Another Midnight Run.” This is to say that while Reynolds and Jackson do have energy to spare and while they are able to generate a certain level of chemistry, a great deal of the proceedings feel pretty uninspired.
There are certainly moments. Salma Hayek is a riot as Sonia, Darius’ spunky, tough-as-nails significant other. A vicious bar brawl serves as backdrop for the first time Darius and Sonia meet, and it to put it mildly, this particular sequence is cinematic gold. Furthermore, there’s something inherently funny about hearing Hayek spew the “F” word, and there’s quite a bit of that going on in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” More importantly, though, Jackson and Hayek have a great rapport. In fact, it could be argued that they have even more chemistry than Jackson and Reynolds do.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” was directed by Patrick Hughes (“Red Hill” and “The Expendables 3”), and while there’s always a lot going on, it still feels like not much is happening. There’s very little momentum to speak of. Even a massive car chase sequence comes across as oddly lifeless, especially when stacked up against the zany, over-the-top bravado of “The Fate of the Furious” and the creative, super-charged auto set pieces in Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver.”
Many viewers are most likely coming into this one to watch Jackson and Reynolds get on each other’s nerves, and for many viewers, that’ll be enough. For this viewer, though, it got to a point in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” when the star chemistry driving the film started to feel forced, and unfortunately, the dull, routine action sequences don’t do much to help matters. On the bright side, there are a handful of laughs, and there’s also this film’s true MVP: A funny, foul-mouthed, ass-kicking Salma Hayek.