Once a highly saught-after, triple-A rated executive protection agent, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself down on his luck after an unexpected assassination of his wealthy client, and now has to take protection jobs for far less reputable clientele. Meanwhile, contract killer Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) volunteers to be escorted to The Hague in order to give crucial testimony against the vicious Belarusian dictator Vladislav Dukovich (Gary Oldman), under the supervision of Bryce’s Interpol ex-girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung). But when a leak inside Interpol leads to the protective convoy being attacked, Amelia calls on Bryce, who is vitally out of the loop, to safely deliver Kincaid to The Hague. Constantly arguing and facing constant danger from Dukovich’s soldiers, can Bryce and Kincaid arrive safely?
Well, with a title like The Hitman’s Bodyguard, this might just have been one of those film ideas that began as a note on the wall that somebody randomly threw a dart at, probably one of its MANY executive producers, leading to what we have here. That’s not to say that it’s a terrible film but it definitely has its problems and, despite a good looking trailer, it disappoints in the comedy stakes; I did manage a few half smiles and there is some good comedic effort throughout, as well as a couple of one liners that softly hit the mark, but overall, the film just isn’t funny enough, the swearing is mightily overused and the humour is both forgettable and regrettable.
The story itself is fairly generic as it’s all about a comically mismatched, bickering pair who go on a road trip while in the background, some stuff goes on with a randomly evil Eastern dictator, a nonsensical conspiracy within Interpol, and tons of driving, crashing, running, jumping, quipping, and shooting a bazillion bullets, few of which actually hit. It seems to be something of a mix of Bond, Johnny English, War on Everyone, Sleepless and perhaps even Planes, Trains and Automobiles but ultimately, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a little dull and could have been written by almost anyone as it is a lot of what we’ve seen before and doesn’t really offer anything unique. The writing is also occasionally clunky, expositional and certain moments require suspension of disbelief.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the film is its excruciating side stories about the two guys’ romantic relationships with their significant others; the film stops dead a great deal of the time to go into the touchy feely scenes about the troubles that these guys are going through with their partners, looking forlorn as they face their inner turmoil and spout some eye roll inducing lines to each other, constantly accompanied by a manipulative, schmaltzy score which often had me sighing in exasperation and muttering under my breath for them to cut it out. The problem is that there isn’t enough chemistry between the actors for us to care about whether they get together or not and the inclusion of these obligatory romantic side stories is a massive hindrance; the filmmakers’ stubborn decision to have the guys “do it all for the girl” often derails the whole film. The film also utilises a few too many flashback scenes that are tiresome and are laced with casual misogyny.
Performance-wise, Reynolds and Jackson work pretty well together and, although not the most memorable film duo, they are both good to watch. Jackson fares the best out of the two as he nabs most of the best lines and dishes out a boatload MFs like only he knows how while Reynolds does what he does best: acting like a bit of a dick and rattling off a few one-liners with some great comic timing.
The supporting cast aren’t so lucky though. Taking a break from The Defenders, Elodie Yung is set up to be the action star, swapping her sai for a gun as she leads the initial taskforce, but is soon relegated to simply being the ex-girlfriend, a voice on the end of the phone who is just there as a plot device. Similarly, Salma Hayek is out of place as Kincaid’s wife; she’s a dangerous, tough-as-nails fireball but she’s made to curse here, there and everywhere and it all feels uncomfortable and awkward, especially with the horrendous accompanying jokes regarding her cellmate. And Gary Oldman hams it up in one of his more forgettable roles as the cod-accented, two dimensional, evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil Belarusian dictator who is just there as a plot device, a nasty ol’ baddie who just sits around threatening people; it’s probably not Oldman’s fault but his character is tiresome, flat and forgettable.
But Richard E. Grant puts in a brief, fun turn as a coked-up attorney that Bryce has to protect.
Saying all of that, The Hitman’s Bodyguard does include some fine action sequences, most noticeably its James Bond inspired speedboat chase down the Amstel and a street fight that ends up in a hardware store. These sequences are competently directed and provide the film’s more entertaining moments.