8/16/2017

Review: 'The Hitman's Bodyguard', Samuel L. Jackson & Ryan Reynolds Are A MuthaFu***n' Blast


Movies aren't complicated. Hollywood finds new ways to make them seem complicated, but when it comes to entertaining audiences the formula is remarkably simple. Make the movie smart, make it emotional, or make it funny. Strike gold if you can do all three at once. The Hitman's Bodyguard isn't a complicated movie AT ALL. However, it's damn funny; one of the funniest movies of a summer that has been lacking in good comedies. And the reason why it's funny is simple, too: it has Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.


I imagine the majority of filming The Hitman's Bodyguard was Reynolds and Jackson bouncing snark off of one another like a freshly-tossed smoke grenade.  Surely, most of the film seems ad-libbed right there on the spot, giving the duo ample chance to hit their "muthafucka" quota in about five minutes. Three minutes if you include co-star Salma Hayek. The actual plot of the movie is whatever; it's serviceable and vaguely like the mismatched action-comedies of the late '80s to early '90s. You'll probably stop and wonder if Shane Black came anywhere near this, but the dialogue isn't quite that sharp, it's a little rough around the edges.


There's actually quite a bit going on in the plot for something so bullet-riddled with buddy action-comedy tropes. Reynolds is Michael Bryce, who lauds himself as a AAA-rated executive protection professional until a high value client takes a sniper slug to the dome. It ends his flashy lifestyle, causes the destruction of his relationship with Interpol agent Amelia (Daredevil's Elodie Yung), and puts his career on the "living out of a car" skids. A couple of years later, Amelia comes calling with a dangerous assignment. She needs him to protect world class assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) to The Hague so he can testify against Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), the mass murdering President of Belarus. The only thing between them and safety are hundreds of Vladislav's armed goons.


Oh, and there's a mole at INTERPOL. OF COURSE there is! And you'll know who it is immediately. If he look shady, that's the guy.  Told you this movie isn't complicated.  But it can be top-heavy with erratic storylines. There's also the conflict between Bryce and Kincaid, who have tried to kill one another 28 times already in the past; there's Bryce's unresolved issues with Amelia, and then there's Kincaid's incarcerated wife, Sonia (Hayek), a deadly chili pepper in her own right. It's almost like a sequel to Hayek's kickass role in Everly. The story of how they met, in some far-off cantina that looks like it sits on the Hellmouth, is one of the film's many hilarious highlights. This lethal couple was meant to be together.


Not so much Bryce and Kincaid, though. There's a lot of yelling. There's so much yelling they actually have someone yell, "Why are we shouting!?". So at least screenwriter Tom O'Connor knows what he's working with, and clearly so do the cast. The same goes for director Patrick Hughes, bringing over the same toolbox he employed on The Expendables 3, the best movie in that franchise, I might add. The action scenes are wildly over the top and hyper violent, nearly all of them beginning and ending with the word "muthafucka." If they could have put it into the title they would have, I think. You won't find any earth-shattering stunt choreography here, but Hughes knows how to craft a thrilling chase and some nasty-looking fights. Really, the smartest thing he does is sit back and point the camera at Reynolds and Jackson. They do most of the heavy lifting.


Clich├ęs abound, of course. Soft rock music plays over the movie's most brutal violence. There's an actual scene where the guys are walking through a field of cows. There's a car chase that turns into a very familiar-looking boat chase. Seen it before and done better, but I'd be lying I said it wasn't still enjoyable.  The tone veers wildly in the final act when the violence goes from cheeky to serious on a global level, leaving us confused about the stakes. You also wish someone like Oldman could have been given a villain with a bit more color to his personality, like he had in Leon: The Professional. Instead he's roped in and pretty dull, made worse by the broad personalities of his co-stars.


As for smarts...well, there's more to Kincaid and Bryce's beef than just old conflicts. A moral question rests at the center of every dispute: "He who kills evil muthafuckas, or he who protects them?" Sounds like some Yoda shit Jackson might've learned on the set of Star Wars, but at least The Hitman's Bodyguard is giving you a little something to ponder...muthafucka.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5