Movie Review: ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Élodie Yung, Gary Oldman
Plot: Vladislav Dukhovich, the brutal dictator of Belarus, is on trial at the International Court of Justice. The last chance for conviction is testimony from notorious hitman Darius Kincaid, imprisoned by Interpol, who is being transported by bodyguard and long time enemy Michael Bryce.
Review: This is something we haven’t seen in a while. The 80’s and 90’s action genre was packed with movies that boiled down to combining two popular actors and letting violent hijinks ensue. It’s also not the first part of a planed cross-media expanded universe merchandising empire, which feel refreshing in 2017.
We have the uptight Bryce (Reynolds), who was a top level bodyguard to powerful people until one of his clients was killed on the job. Years later he’s working for low value clients and depressed about his station in life. His ex-girlfriend is Interpol agent Roussel (Yung), responsible for transporting Kincaid (Jackson) to The Hague to deliver his testimony against Dukhovich (Oldman). Kincaid has agreed in order to get his wife Sonia (Hayek) released from jail. When Dukhocih’s mercenaries disrupt the transport, Roussel calls in Bryce to finish the job. Unfortunately Kincaid has tried to kill Bryce a number of times in the past, making for an uneasy alliance.
Here’s one major problem with this movie – it tells us more about the characters than it shows us. It starts out fine with Bryce living the high life, later contrasted with his rock bottom, and Dukhovich’s horrendous tactics in dealing with his people. After the first act, however, we have the take everything on their word. We get told that Kincaid is an incredibly efficient and ruthless hitman, but until he gets involved in an action scene we don’t see anything to suggest this. Bryce and Kincaid have this long standing rivalry where they try to kill each other, but the film doesn’t show it to us. Even a quick, whacky montage of all the times they crossed paths could’ve been done in less than 20 seconds, but as far as the audience is concerned these two are meeting for the first time. There’s a couple of twists and turns about their respective backstories to uncover later in the film, but if you don’t see them coming then you could maybe get a job writing the next Transformers movie.
Whilst this is a showcase for the leads, the rest of the talented cast get shortchanged. Gary Oldman is super fun playing a straight up horrible dictator, and Élodie Yung (who plays Elektra in the Marvel Netflix Universe) is downright cool but neither of them get much to do. Salma Hayek, once a powerful screen presence, spends the entire film in a jail cell. This is a poor use of your resources.
Now that we’ve got the negativity out of the way, we can focus on what works. The biggest selling point of the film is the stars, and the script has been heavily reworked to suit their own different styles. Reports indicate that the film was intended as a drama, only to be heavily rewritten in the weeks prior to release to make it a comedy. Whilst this could be taken as a cynical studio action to draw in a crowd, there’s no denying it’s effectiveness. Reynolds delivers a barrage of flippant insults and Jackson glowers and says ‘motherfucker’ an awful lot. They’re both charismatic and highly entertaining performers, and they work extremely well together. If you’re a fan of one or both it’s worth the price of the ticket to watch them bounce off each other. Just look at this poster, for Christ’s sake:
How can you not want to watch this?
The action swings between generic, clichéd genre routines such as a canal speed boat chase and some super intense, brutal close combat fights with unstoppable Belarus mercenaries. Whichever sequence it is, director Hughes managers to keep things tightly shot and pumping in time with the cheesy soundtrack.
We’ve had some truly amazing movies this year, films that have pushed the boundaries of the art form and set new standards. We’ve also had many, many attempts at new expanded universes fall flat. What we’ve got here in The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a straight-forward action comedy with likeable characters that you can sit back and enjoy. We had fun and you might to.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN