The Hitman's Bodyguard
Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Samuel L. Jackson is Darius Kincaid, a notorious hitman preparing to testify against a power hungry European dictator. Ryan Reynolds is Michael Bryce, a private bodyguard forced by his Interpol agent ex-girlfriend into making sure Kincaid gets to court alive. They hate each other, but have to work together to survive. Lots of car chases, shootouts and witty banter ensue. That is what hard-R action/comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard (111 minutes minus the end credits) is and that’s pretty much all it is. That being said, it is fairly successful at what it does.
The first 25 minutes, which are full of exposition and set-up for the overly complicated plot, made me think the film was going to be a bit of a slog. But once the Reynolds and Jackson characters meet onscreen for the first time the movie settles into a pretty solid groove. As it turns out, they are quite fun to watch together. That doesn’t entirely make up for the repetitive action scenes and underutilized supporting cast, but it comes much closer than I had expected coming in.
Samuel L. Jackson can be an incredibly powerful presence with the right material. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is not the right material. However, it is the perfect material for Jackson to act like a badass action hero while engaging in relatively witty (and fittingly vulgar) dialogue. At 68 years old, he still looks like he can hold his own against action stars half his age. He appears to be having a lot of fun in this role. Ryan Reynolds who, generally speaking, has a pretty likable screen presence, is a great foil for him as a down on his luck bodyguard looking to turn his life around. He mines his usual self-pitying, lovable jerk shtick to good effect. I would not mind seeing these two team up again in another film.
For a comedy to really work, it needs to build up a kind of comedic momentum. One funny scene leads to another which leads to another and so on. Once Kincaid and Bryce start travelling together, the film begins to pick up some steam. However, as with a lot of action comedies, the film kills its own momentum with several lengthy action sequences. Those scenes are fine in their own right, but there is nothing that audiences haven’t seen in plenty of other films (a couple of the action scenes do end with pretty funny payoffs. More of that would have been appreciated.)
Additionally, the scenes not involving the two leads also hurt the film’s momentum. Unfortunately, the supporting cast does not get to be a part of the fun. Their characters are treated like they are in a serious action film. Therefore, every time the movie cuts to Elodie Yung (Elektra from Netflix’s Marvel Series’) as Amelia Roussel, the Interpol agent Bryce is still in love with, or Gary Oldman as the evil dictator Dukhovich, things get plot-heavy and begin to drag. It is not that the performers outside of the main story (also including Joaquim de Almeida as Roussel’s boss Foucher) are bad, it is just that they are all forced to play types straight out of a boring espionage film. They seem completely separated from the wacky chaos going on elsewhere in the story.
The lone exception is Salma Hayek as Kincaid’s incarcerated wife Sonia. She gets to play things in the same tone as Reynolds and Jackson and her scenes fit right in with theirs. She can be quite funny even while playing the cliché “fiery Latina.” The film could only have benefited from more interplay between her and Jackson.
Though it is far from a masterpiece, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a generally enjoyable time at the movies. The filmmakers’ purpose seems to be to give filmgoers something fun and silly to see in the dog days of the summer. And for the parts of the film where they let their stars do their thing, the film succeeds.
3¼ out of 5
Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce
Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid
Elodie Yung as Amelia Roussel
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid
Gary Oldman as Vladislav Dukhovich
Joaquim de Almeida as Jean Foucher
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Written by Tom O’Connor