Director: Patrick Hughes
Writer: Tom O’Connor
Genre: Action / Comedy
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman
Michael Bryce (Reynolds) was one of the world’s top bodyguards until the death of a Japanese client and is now just a second-class bodyguard protecting nobodies. However, after a botched attempt at protection by Interpol, Bryce is now tasked with the protection of Darius Kincaid (Jackson) and to escort him from Manchester to The Hague, so Kincaid can testify against an infamous Belarusian dictator (Oldman). The problem is that Kincaid is actually a notorious assassin that has killed many of Bryce’s clients, and now these two enemies must work together to avoid the many groups hunting them down and somehow get to The Hague within 24 hours.
I think we can all admit that this a good match up on paper: the pairing up of Ryan Reynolds and his effortless cocky swagger and Samuel L. Jackson and his err, Samuel L. Jackson-ness in an action comedy / buddy movie. Well, unfortunately those involved seem to think that this concept alone is enough without ever feeling the need to actually put any effort into the making of the film itself, and so the result is tonally cacophonous, overlong, cliché-ridden misfiring snooze-fest in the Ride Along vein that basically sums up the abject complacency that seems to exist in mainstream cinema these days.
The buddy movie is a tried and tested narrative concept that is used time and time again, and this is because it really can work very well. If you throw into the narrative mix Reynolds and Jackson as the two mismatched ‘buddies’, Gary Oldman as the villain, an extended cameo from Salma Hayek as Jackson’s wife (who manages to out-Jackson Samuel L. Jackson in terms of how angry she is) and plenty of blood and bullets then you should be on to a winner. However, The Hitman’s Bodyguard not only fails to try to do something with the genre clichés (and I have always vociferously argued that clichés are not in isolation a bad thing – it is what the narrative does with then that is important), it seems to try to singlehandedly undermine them and it is a film that only occasionally produces the slight laugh (when not relying on Jackson’s penchant for a particular word), but never any moments of genuine tension.
The narrative structure and tone are the main problem; the dealing of the lighter and darker elements of the plot is very lacklustre, as there is of course the inevitable squabbling between the two protagonists, but then the plot also has some potentially quite dark elements and themes, but the script never deals with them with any sense of conviction, and so they just feel like they should not be there at all. This also leads to there never being any real sense of danger, and therefore genuine engagement or tension. While though the film itself is quite violent with bullets constantly flying everywhere, the actual action sequences themselves are often underwhelming and overlong. While some of the CGI is very poor and the cinematography makes a lot of the action sequences look particularly fake. There is also a subplot involving Bryce’s love interest (Elodie Yung), but this so badly written that it feels like it was added to the script at the last minute, making these particular scenes jar in a rather painful way.
The performances from the two leads are as expected, and they do seem to share some decent potential on-screen chemistry in desperate need of a half-decent script, and this does produce the occasional laugh and an element of engagement with the characters that the script really does not deserve to produce, especially as the script seems to rely on frequently using variations of Samuel L Jackson’s favourite word. Meanwhile Salma Hayek does produce some laughs in the few scenes that she gets, while a prosthetic covered Gary Oldman makes it obvious that he is just there to pick up the cheque with an abysmal attempt at a Belarusian accent.
At just under two hours, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is at least thirty minutes too long, and is a genuinely exhausting watch, and by the time it gets to the equally exhausting, overlong and underwhelming finale through the streets of Amsterdam it is hard not to wish that they had just stayed in Blightly. It should be made a Hollywood law that all buddy movies must be written by Shane Black!
Playing out like a two-hour long example of how to singlehandedly annihilate a good concept, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an example of pure Hollywood laziness in what is an underwhelming and overlong experience that produces minimal laughs and zero excitement or interest.