Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson reignite the buddy ‘cop’ action/comedy in the new film The Hitman’s Bodyguard from 77-year old director Patrick Hughes (who had only previously helmed The Expendables 3 and Red Hill as his other feature-length directorial efforts) which sees Reynolds playing Kevin Costner to Sam Jackson’s Whitney Houston but obviously with a much different dynamic than that particular film.
Reynolds plays elite bodyguard Michael Brice who had his whole world turned upside-down when one of his clients he was sworn to protect was suddenly shot dead on his watch. Having passed the blame to his old flame Amelia (Kirsty Mitchell) which led to their breakup, Brice is down on his luck until the moment arrives when he must rush to the aid of his old gal-pal and protect a former trained assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) of which Brice holds a tenuous history. Together they must make their way to a courthouse and race against the clock so Kincaid can testify against former genocidal president of Belarus, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) so they can send him away forever. Meanwhile, Kincaid has other motives including the guaranteed release of his short-tempered lover Sonia (Salma Hayek) if he is able to deliver on the testimony.
This is one of those movies that was a lot more prevalent around 10-20 years ago and is that of the R-rated buddy movie with two bankable stars delivering one-liners and stunning action set pieces set around a paper-thin plot designed to entertain rather than be studied. In short, it is not a film designed to appeal to critics but rather to audiences looking for a big, fun summer movie – and to that extent, it is pretty successful. Reynolds and Jackson have not teamed up for a movie previous to this but prove right from the get-go that they have some pretty great tension-filled chemistry and some of their banter provided some loud guffaws, especially from the attending audience who ate up pretty much every line of dialogue they uttered. Aside from them, the rest of the cast is fine but I wish Gary Oldman had been given more time or juicy material as the villain. He’s not so much “fun” as he is just pure evil (we see him killing a mother and child early in the film) but he doesn’t get as much screen time as I would’ve liked even though he basically makes the most of it.
As I mentioned, the plot is fairly thin: basically it is one of those race-against-the-clock movies with a lot of “shit blowing up” and people getting shot in the head while our leads crack jokes and constantly get on each other’s nerves. One of the main differences between this film and lesser ones of its ilk though (Bad Boys II, Showtime, etc. etc.) is that the two characters are very likeable right from the get-go and the script is remarkably tight for a film like this as well. Though they could’ve stood to lose about 10-15 minutes as the film does feel a little long for what it’s trying to accomplish, it is never boring and there are some truly impressive action sequences including a chase involving a boat and a motorcycle as well as another exciting one where Reynolds and another man end up battling it out in a hardware store.
There are some truly inspired moments in the film as well such as a scene explaining how Jackson met Hayek and instantly fell in love. It’s brutal, violent and hilarious. Hayek herself is a revelation as well and she basically plays out like a female version of a stereotypical Sam Jackson character. She drops the MFer bombs, makes her cellmate stand in the corner before being gracious and giving the terrified prisoner a five-minute break and she fights and kills people without any regard for her actions. In fact, I wish we would have gotten a little more of the relationship between her and Jackson and less of the under-written romance between Reynolds and his old flame.
Overall, a fun time at the movies and nothing more or less as was expected. There are some big highlights and a few surprises but the film ultimately delivers what it promises, which is at least refreshing to see after a pretty underwhelming summer of comedies.
RATING: *** ½
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)