Film Review – The Hitman’s Bodyguard
The Hitman's Bodyguard
Old school action movie fun. We don’t get that many stereotypical buddy cop movies anymore. It’s a genre that dominated the 1980’s and 1990’s to the point that every cliche had been completely wrung out of it. Noting that the Lethal Weapon franchise was probably the apex of the witty banter between two mismatched partners who indiscriminately kill bad guys and flout certain legalities, it’s the kind of movie that has mostly fallen out of fashion in the current millennium. For action, superhero films have filled the void to the point that now this kind of predictable dude bro gun fest has become a rarity. So if nothing else, that makes the new film The Hitman’s Bodyguard a slight change of pace.
Ryan Reynolds plays a top level private security expert. His clientele is the richest of the rich, business tycoons, those who can afford and likely need personal escorts. However, he quickly becomes down on his luck after an A-list client gets killed on his watch. Jump ahead a few years, he is watching over a coked out slimy executive who is trying to avoid gangsters trying to kill him. He’s not getting the kind of jobs he used to. Meanwhile, his ex girlfriend/federal agent played by Elodie Young (Elektra from Netflix’s Daredevil series), is watching over newly arrested Samuel L. Jackson who is an internationally renown hitman. He is also the key witness in an international trial which is prosecuting Gary Oldman’s Russian dictator character who is accused of war crimes. Basically, they have to get Jackson to the trial alive to testify. Of course, assassins sent by Oldman intervene, the Fed’s plans go awry, and fearing an internal mole, she calls in Reynolds to protect him. The rest of the movie is a very violent, stunt filled, and reasonably funny buddy movie as Reynolds and Jackson try to make their way across Europe to get to the trial in time.
Yes, this plot isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Two misfits who are good at killing on the road together with mercenaries on their trail. Add some banter, some explosions, an ample supply of guns, and a profuse amount of car chases, and you have the classic action movie formula. In fact, mildest of spoilers (but you’ve been warned), the mystery of who is the internal mole lasts all of 5 minutes of screen time. It’s one of those things that much like old action TV shows, you can guess who the bad guy is based on the casting of a supporting character. Hint, the guy has played bad guys in pretty much every movie you’ve ever seen him in. So it’s not a stretch to say that The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t very challenging.
However, it is very fun. Formulas can be formulas for a reason; sometimes they work. This movie has Ryan Reynolds playing Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson doing his shouting every line in his exaggerated Sam Jackson cadence. But, though these guys are doing the same thing you’ve seen from them a million times before, these guys are also really fun company to be with. Their dialogue has some genuine laughs. Jackson repeatedly tries to ditch Reynolds but can’t ever really dump him. Also, the leverage over the Hitman is the releasing from custody of his wife played by a profanely funny Salma Hayek. Every other word out of her mouth is a shouted profanity, and it is hilarious. Will Reynolds reconnect with his ex-girlfriend? Will they get Jackson to court in time? Will they both survive the bad guys and each other? If you’ve seen any of the previously described action movies you know the answer. But the snarky humor of this film is like a slightly less subversive version of a Shane Black movie (e.g. The Good Guys or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Those movies have a bit more of a brain behind them. But The Hitman’s Bodyguard could be a spiritual cousin.
As for the action, there are a couple of well stage car chases. The centerpiece of the movie involves assassins chasing Jackson who is speeding through canals in a speedboat while they shoot at him with an array of machine guns. It is fun and energetic. I could spot a couple of explosions and shots throughout that looked computer enhanced. It’s always a bit of a disappointment when that happens. Practical effects really are where it’s at for this kind of movie. Think of a more subdued version of some of the explosions in Kingsman: The Secret Service, . That movie was rife with CG enhanced action. It’s more subtle here, but it’s still here. Also, for these two being the good guys in the story, there isn’t much care about innocent bystanders. The Hitman keeps saying throughout that he doesn’t kill innocent people. But neither character pays much attention to getting into gunfights in crowded plazas where stray gunfire and car crashes could take out lots of people. And lots of people do die in this movie. Lots. We presume that they are bad guys. But there is a very casual attitude regarding taking life here, which can be kind of fun. Realistic, not at all, but fun in the “it’s a movie” regard.
Notice throughout that I never mentioned the characters’ names. That’s because the two leads are playing themselves in an action movie. Neither one is stretching themselves. They are both leading heavily on their old bag of tricks. Fortunately, that bag is deep and those tricks are really fun.