Director: Patrick Hughes
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Richard E. Grant
Plot: When a murderous dictator (Oldman) is put on trial, Interpol need notorious hitman, Darius Kincaid (Jackson) to testify against him. But Kincaid needs to get through armies of hitmen first.
The concept behind The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a solid one, drawing in from a lot of solid ideas. For one, the casting is a selection of two of the hottest actors on the block. Everyone is crazy about Ryan Reynolds at the moment, so any action film for the next five years with his name on the tin is bound to sell like crazy. And when is Samuel L. Jackson not a certified hit, one of the safest bets for any casting director around. The writers know what they are playing with and ask the actors not to stray too far out of their comfort zone. Samuel L. Jackson is a louder than life badass who uses the word ‘motherfucker’ far too often. Ryan Reynolds is the dry, wise-cracking know-it-all. The humour is perfectly suited to both their abilities as performers, almost to the point where that air of laziness is settling in. However, while its initial reception was panned for its unoriginality from the two lead actors, time will likely be The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s ally, serving up reliable thrills from both stars, ideal for their fans who don’t like the boat to be rocked too much. Ryan Reynolds will happily slot this entry into a collector’s box-set somewhere in a few years’ time.
Then there is the plot. It is gloriously simple, even if it is told in a slightly convoluted way. Gary Oldman plays a merciless Belarus dictator, supposedly guilty of slaughtering villages who do not bend to his will (Oldman isn’t in this as much as you want him to be, but it nonetheless is a worthy performance from one of the better villain actors of our time), who’s ironclad defence can only be overturned by Samuel L. Jackson’s career hitman with all of his dirty secrets on file. Samuel L. Jackson is perfectly happy to sell the dictator out, Interpol willing to release his wife from prison. However, when a mole in Interpol helps take down an entire security team, Kincaid to stranded from the courthouse in the Netherlands and stuck without any help. It falls to disgraced bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds, to help Kincaid get to that courthouse, despite an aggressive history between the pair of them. True, this is a story juggling a lot of balls and sub-plots. Reynolds has an ex-girlfriend heading the Interpol team who hates his guts. Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds have fought in the past. And let’s not forget a wondrous turn from Salma Hayek as Jackson’s imprisoned wife. She manages to save a dreary flashback sequences with a hilarious bar fight scene that marks the moment Jackson’s character falls for her. Hayek is a fiery symbol of feminist film-making, always eager to stray away from the routine female roles. Here, she is arguably lumped with the sexy wife character, but every moment she is on-screen, the actress is fighting the stereotype, whether she is swearing profanities as the extras or giving as good as she gets, when she is allowed a rare chance to dive into an action sequence. But for the most part, this is simply a good, old-fashioned double header of an action film. Two likeable heroes have to get from Point A to Point B via several dangerous set-pieces. Cue several astonishingly well-choreographed action scenes splintered with amusing bickering from the two leads. Again, director Patrick Hughes seems to be onto a winner with this movie. It would take a royal cock up to balls it up.
But balls it up, The Hitman’s Bodyguard does. It is simply, far too long a film to sustain the momentum. There isn’t particularly a moment that goes wrong, per se. Even by the flagging end, there are moments that you know you should be praising. Ryan Reynolds takes on a heavy in a hardware store in a thrilling punch-up that is both brutal and amusing. It is the kind of scene that action movie junkies live for. This scene is juxtaposed with Samuel L. Jackson in a stunning car chase that throws endless amounts of cash into giving us a stunning display of carnage and chaos. These scenes might be the highlight of the movie, but they are far from all the movie has up its sleeve. Even the smaller punch-ups are made thrilling by Reynolds and Jackson displaying some fine fight techniques. But despite every action scene landing the correct amount of thrills, the fun inevitably dies somewhere along the way. It just comes across as bloated. Just when the film finds a suitable place to tie itself up on, another reason to keep the bullets flying crops up, bringing in another action scene. Like the stars struggling to get to the courthouse, the audience are left exhausted just by watching what is going on. The issue is perhaps not with the quality of the action, which is tremendous, but the tone. Everything is written to be tongue-in-cheek, which, on paper, is fine, but humorous action doesn’t sustain two hours. There needs to be more sense of threat, rather than two seemingly invincible heroes shooting their way through bad guys. There is never any moment where you fear for their lives, because even when dodging explosions, the pair of them are cracking jokes. It is the kind of action that needs to be 90 minutes – without a more three-dimensional story, it is hard to carry on caring for what you are watching. As the film rocks to a close, you are aware what you just watched was solid, good fun, but somehow… it just doesn’t feel like it.
Final Verdict: The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a fun action movie, for sure, but its overlong and stuffed running time lets it down.