From Director Patrick Hughes and Screenwriter Tom O’Connor comes The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an action comedy that has some nice laughs and plenty of action, but is not unique enough to stand out in the crowd.
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) was a top-rated executive protection agent—read: bodyguard. These days, he’s protecting a lower class of executive since a job of his went bad two years ago. He is called back into high-profile protection by his ex, Amelia (Elodie Yung), an Interpol agent dealing with a high-level mole. Amelia tasks Bryce with protecting Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a notorious hitman who is needed at The Hague to testify against a genocidal dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Bryce and Kincaid are old rivals, so their relationship is more than a little contentious as they try to make their way to The Hague, fending off Dukhovich’s hired killers. Kincaid is determined to make it, because his deal with Interpol ensures the release of his wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), from prison. Will the pair succeed? Will Amelia ferret out her mole? And will Bryce and Amelia finally reconcile?
That last question is part of what’s wrong with The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The romance angle is inserted very ham-fistedly into this film. Aside from a photo and people telling me they were together, I never really bought that Bryce and Amelia were a couple. Part of this stems from the fact that the flashback to their first meeting is nowhere near as memorable—or hilarious—as Kincaid and Sonia’s. Elodie Yung also plays Elektra on Netflix’s Daredevil. Her relationship with Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), I believe that, because the producers and actors take time and care to make me believe it—yes, a TV series gets more time to do that, but it’s all in the writing. Here, we’re told that the characters were once in love and Bryce secretly wants to reconcile, but because we never see them in love, we have to suspend our disbelief that their “love” is anything more than just physical attraction. Kincaid and Sonia? All I needed was one scene to believe that they were in love. The filmmakers dropped the ball on Bryce and Amelia and that’s a problem when Bryce’s motivation shifts from professional to personal. They should have kept Bryce’s motivation solely professional and had his relationship with Amelia develop throughout the film. They tried to do this, threading the personal motivation throughout the film to replace the professional, but it didn’t work for me.
Why didn’t it work? It didn’t work because of the second major problem with this film—it doesn’t know what it wants to be. We’ve seen plenty of action comedies before, but each one knew what its primary purpose was for the audience. With The Hitman’s Bodyguard, I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be a comedy or an action flick. There’s plenty of great action—the chase scenes are pretty great—and there are plenty of laughs, but I think when you cast Ryan Reynolds as the lead, you have an obligation to lean heavily into the comedy. I was disappointed that instead of subverting action movie tropes and clichés, this film took them and ran with them. I would have much preferred a more satirical film, especially with Reynolds and Jackson as the leads, two performers that know how to do comedy. So, when I realized that the film was devolving into another standard action movie, I got a little disappointed. Also, once that happens, the more absurdist comedy elements clash with the tone of the action film. It created an uneven movie that could have been a classic action movie satire, but instead became just another face in the crowd of action films. There are definitely some great laughs here—the aforementioned flashback to Kincaid and Sonia meeting is a highlight—but I was looking for more comedy than action film with this one. The plot is also not anything to write home about. It’s a problem when the guy who’s trying to do the right thing keeps running off to do his own thing as Kincaid does. I wish Bryce had asked him at some point, “Do you even want your wife to get out of jail?”
Despite my grievances with the film, I did enjoy it more than I thought I would. That is mainly due to Reynolds and Jackson. They make a great duo and one worth watching. I just wish the movie around them was better. They both bring the funny and have the requisite skills to handle the action scenes. Yung is fine as Amelia, but the script doesn’t do her any favors. Hayek is hilarious as Sonia and I would have liked to have had more of her in the film. Oldman does his best to do sinister, but the script soon devolves his character into cartoon villain. I was also glad to see Joaquim de Almeida as Amelia’s mentor. I’ve enjoyed his acting since I first saw him in Clear and Present Danger, so I’m always pleased when he shows up.
Overall, The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t the action satire I was hoping for—something that the film’s marketing led me to believe (see below)—but while it isn’t a great film, it’s definitely entertaining. Maybe catch it on cable when it premieres, but there’s no need to rush out to the theater to see it.