For any movie in today’s cynical climate, there are certain expectations to meet or overcome. Some have no optimistic buzz and end up being something great (this year’s Life), others have similarly low opinions pre-release and end up being as bad as (or worse than) expected (oh hi there Emoji Movie). Then on the flipside, some are sunk - either critically or financially - by expectations that are near impossible to meet (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Every movie lives or dies by what you, as a discerning movie lover, want from it, and when it comes to a film like The Hitman’s Bodyguard you get exactly what you pay for.
This buddy action/comedy focuses on protection agent Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who is hired to protect dangerous hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) as he makes the perilous journey to The Hague to testify in the much-publicised trial of ruthless Belarus dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). The plot is undoubtedly silly…hell you can clearly see that. As such, if you are expecting a film that subverts the tropes of its intermingled genres and refreshingly rewrites the rulebook, you may well leave disappointed. However, should you be going in expecting a movie that doffs its cap to the buddy action comedy capers of the late ‘80s/early-mid ‘90s (the Lethal Weapon series, Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Long Kiss Goodnight) then you will be as entertained as this reviewer was.
From the posters staging a Jackson/Reynolds parody of Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner 1992 Romantic Thriller The Bodyguard, to the film’s big name cast having a ball (akin to RED) and being allowed to do their thing in a Midnight Run fashion, this is all played for fun. Whatever the plot lacks in originality or tonal jumps (the finale goes rather serious and the opening feels a touch too spoofy) director Patrick Hughes makes up for in entertaining action sequences (the film has a great car chase), constant enjoyment and the camaraderie of the leading double act and supporting players.
Unlike Hughes’ last film – The Expendables 3 – that was not terrible but did somewhat betray that series’ modus operandi, The Hitman’s Bodyguard delivers what it is expected to. The script is full of more profanity than a late night, boozy, XBOX Live session (the mothaf***er count is high) and the jokes hit more than they miss (appropriately enough), as the film savors its own folly and delivers Deadpool-esque moments of violence (a particularly nasty torture scene) alongside some big name tomfoolery (Reynolds & Jackson meet Nuns).
The film really sails on the charismatic pairing of Jackson and Reynolds, who have a top banterous (is that a word?) energy together and are consistently entertaining to watch. They both create a memorable bromance across a few scenes, where Jackson in particular is clearly having a blast. Meanwhile it is great to see Salma Hayek get given the green light to be the badass she can be, as opposed to the scantily clad eye candy she has become a touch stereotyped as. Her sweary, aggressive and ‘it’s good to be bad’ turn as Kincaid’s wife Sonia recalls the joyously invested, against typecast, performance that Jennifer Aniston gave as the nymphomaniac dentist Julia in Horrible Bosses (forget the sequel). Then there is Gary Oldman who sinks his teeth into the film’s villain role (and accent) - a character that wouldn’t be too out of place in a serious Bond or Bourne caper actually - and again shows he is one of the most underappreciated actors in the business.
Overall, with its fun soundtrack, joyride-like action and plenty of bang for buck entertainment, not to mention the cast visibly having a hoot, this is precisely what it is meant to be. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is ridiculous, enjoyable and very well cast…with Reynolds and Jackson especially taking you on a helluva ride to The Hague.
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: PATRICK HUGHES / SCREENPLAY: TOM O’CONNOR / STARRING: SAMUEL L. JACKSON, RYAN REYNOLDS, GARY OLDMAN, SALMA HAYEK / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 8/10