In another world, The Hitman’s Bodyguard would have been a serious, thought-provoking drama.
This movie has a very compelling premise: What happens if a good, moral person, is tasked to protect an evil one?
Is it worth risking the life of a good person for an evil one? Even if it is for a worthy cause? Can the souls of the wicked be saved? Does a good act cancel out all the bad deeds one has committed?
The Hitman’s Bodyguard has no time for all that ethical and philosophical nonsense, reducing all of it to one of the film’s most memorable lines: “Who is more wicked? He who kills evil @#%$, or he who protects them?” (this is a film with Samuel L Jackson after all).
The movie is too busy getting its characters into violent fights or ridiculous shenanigans on screen. And believe it or not, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a straight-laced, top of his field protection agent, who’s fallen onto hard times after failing to protect the life of one of his biggest clients. Caught in a downward spiral, he is persuaded by old flame Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) to take on another job.
His task? To protect notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson), who is supposed to testify against the war crimes of notorious Eastern European dictator Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) at the International Court of Justice.
Bryce has to get Kincaid from London to the Netherlands, where the trial is being held, while dodging the many, many assassins Dukhovich has sent to silence Kincaid on the way.
As expected, the staight-laced, meticulous Byrce doesn’t quite get along with the brash Kincaid, who is a loose cannon in more ways than one. Comedy ensues as the two get into one over-the-top situation after another.
Not all the jokes work, and some are a little contrived, but the ones that do? They’re not bad at all!
Director Patrick Hughes (who helmed The Expendables 3) does a good job with the action scenes. Among the highlights are a high-octane chase through Dutch canals, and a screwball confrontation between Bryce and Dukhovich’s goons which ends up in a hardware store.
The film also has a slight obsession with playing overly sentimental music over gore and violence: you may never look at Lionel Richie’s Hello in the same way after this show.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard works best when it focuses on the ridiculous combo of Bryce and Kincaid. They’re nothing like Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy from 48 Hrs, but they come close.
Reynolds occasionally feels wooden, but generally puts up a convincing, restrained performance as the world-weary Bryce.
Jackson, on the other hand, swaggers through the show, dropping expletives in every other line. In other words, a typically entertaining performance by him.
Every other part of the film is slightly lacklustre. The romantic subplot between Bryce and Agent Roussel is forgettable. The one between Kincaid and his long-suffering wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek) is slightly more entertaining, if only because Hayek’s constant swearing is strangely alluring.
The film’s tone is also rather odd: at times it wavers between being a genuine action film and a parody of itself. It goes to great lengths to convince us that Kincaid, despite being known as a vicious hitman, is really not a bad dude. This sometimes comes across as pandering, as if desperate to make sure we never lost sympathy for the character.
The parts about Dukhovich and his war crimes are also simply glossed over, and feel mostly like a plot device to get Kincaid and Bryce together in the first place.
It’s also a bit strange to cast Oldman, an extremely versatile actor, and give him little to do except plan schemes loudly in a funny accent.
So yeah. It may not be perfect. It may not make sense all the time. But is The Hitman’s Bodyguard entertaining? Yes.
After all, in what other movie can you watch Salma Hayek lovingly refer to her boyfriend as a cockroach, or watch Jackson sing along with a bus full of nuns? Only this one, monster trucker.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Ryan Reynolds. Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman
Director: Patrick Hughes