Hitman’s Bodyguard, The (2017)
Release Date: August 18th, 2017 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Patrick Hughes Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Elodie Yung, Gary Oldman, Joaquim de Almeida, Salma Hayek, Yuri Kolokolnikov
oring is always best.” That’s the motto of Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a triple-A rated elite protection services contractor, who hires himself out to highly valuable targets. So when arms dealer Takashi Kurosawa (perhaps a reference to a couple of renowned filmmakers) is killed while under Bryce’s protection, the bodyguard’s career collapses. Two years later, he’s reduced to a visual and financial wreck, picking up embarrassing jobs as a courier for paranoid, cocaine-addicted, pill-popping attorneys (such as Mr. Seifert, played by Richard E. Grant). Nevertheless, Michael is still extremely skilled; he might look like a bedraggled has-been, but he’s five steps ahead of any assassin.
When the former president of Belarus, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), is finally brought to the International Criminal Court to face accusations of war crimes, it’s up Interpol’s finest – including agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) – to guard the only man willing to testify: Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). But thanks to a mole and Dukhovich’s never-ending supply of henchmen, Roussel’s team is compromised and ambushed, leaving her no choice but to call upon outside help – in the form of former boyfriend Bryce.
As Kincaid is ferried across the country to reach The Hague before the deadline for producing a witness is up, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” becomes something of a road movie. Contemptuous banter between two polar opposites is the recipe for humor, though this premise certainly lacks any originality. Jackson plays himself, while Reynolds doesn’t stray too far from the cynical styling of Deadpool. At least, both are very comfortable in these portrayals. Jackson can unload vulgarities like the best of them, and Reynolds perfects the quizzical stare or fatigued pout. This repartee isn’t unwatchable by itself, but it has a difficult time trying to fit together with nearly every other component of the film. Two different love stories play out in the background, both contributing to the amount of comic relief, and both remaining largely unnecessary. But, far more incongruous than the love counseling subplot or the flashback-riddled history of Darius’ true love (played by an expletive-spewing Salma Hayek), is the action itself.
Rather than attempting to be an action movie complemented by humor, or a comedy supplemented by a few action scenes, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” tries to be both a serious actioner and an outright comedy simultaneously. With its two-hour runtime, it feels like there’s enough material to have been separated into these two distinct parts and still make sense as disunited movies; both concepts might have worked apart, but together they feel like an alternation between two incompatible scripts. As such, the comedy doesn’t stick, especially when its juxtaposed with exploding heads, bloody wounds, ear-piercing shootouts, and torture. Likewise, the exhilaration of the action sequences are broken up by lengthy bouts of wisecracking and slapstick.
With violence that is too severe for the levity of the characters, and jokiness that doesn’t feel authentic in the midst of car chases and close-quarters fistfights, it’s difficult to appreciate either element, even when they’re individually succeeding. Several of the action sequences are simply outstanding, particularly with the locations, props, vehicles, and the combining of Kincaid’s escapes with Bryce’s pursuits – usually divided by varying modes of transportation. Many of the stunts are equally exceptional. And there’s even a brief pause for deeper contemplations of morality as the leads ponder the nature of killing and what it takes to define a good guy versus a bad guy. But this, too, belongs in a different picture. Toward the finale, where the hard edge of the violence works a little better against a distinct decrease in the drolleries, the silliness of the villain shifts into overdrive, as if to prevent the film from catching a break. Dukhovich’s Plan B, C, and D are about as ludicrous as shooting every judge in the world to prevent prosecution, or killing every doctor to prevent reviving the heroes, or rewriting all the laws so that his crimes don’t actually break them. It’s desperate and unconvincing to drag out what is, unequivocally, the long-awaited dispatching of a basic antagonist.
– Mike Massie