The Hitman's Bodyguard review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson have the makings of a great duo, both exuding charisma to spare in their individual roles. So you can imagine my disappointment when The Hitman’s Bodyguard never fully capitalizes on their true potential. A great film can take Jackson’s knack for saying mouthf**ker like nobody’s business and use it to great effect. A lesser film such as this uses it as a bullet-point for funny.
The two at least seem to be in their element, more or less, for a ballet of blood and bullets. Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, an expert bodyguard that takes every precaution, only to be kicked down in rank when he loses a client to sniper fire. While I may not know the specifics of the bodyguard tiers, his lesser jobs still seem to involve legions of assassins and exploding vehicles. Maybe his status has something to do with his living arrangements and pay. It’s the only reason I could fathom why he keeps bottles of urine in his car for no reason. Well, other than the simplicity of pee humor.
He may have landed the ultimate gig to kick him back up into the big leagues when given a mission as the plan B of guarding convicted hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson). An unlikely bond could brew between them as Michael must escort Kincaid to a crucial hearing against the evil dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). But they already have a history as it turns out Darius was responsible for the kill that knocked Michael down the bodyguard totem pole. And therein lies the biggest problem with Hitman’s Bodyguard, artificially manufacturing several scenes meant to be funny or gritty, fueled by a banal supply of Reynold’s shouting and Jackson’s cackling.
This formula would be fine if it weren’t for the film’s fiercely fluctuating tones. When Darius’ first convoy is attacked, it’s exceptionally violent with security forces being shot to death until they’re a bloody pulp. This isn’t the only scene that greatly clashes with the darkly comedic buddy picture aspect. Darius reveals in a flashback that he grew up in the deep South where racism claimed his father and bloody revenge claimed his soul. If you thought that scene feels out of place with the Southern choir and melodramatic staging, I thought the film had completely shifted gears when an intense chase leads to a torture dungeon of heavy metal music and gruesome kills.
Reynolds and Jackson are not the only ones who feel underused. Gary Oldman can be a great villain, but not in a film that seems to slap him with the standard foreign dictator digs, merely killing civilians and corrupting officials with pointless political babble buried in an accent. Just as confined is Salma Hayek, playing Darius incarcerated wife. She’s given a rather thankless role of spending the whole movie in a prison cell trying to amp up how badass her husband can be, but damned if she doesn’t try to put everything she has into this small part.
There are still a few scenes that stick out with the charm I was seeking from this team-up, amid awkward tone shifts and some of the least impressive special effects I’ve seen for an action picture. Highlights include Jackson singing along with a bus full of nuns, much to the chagrin of Reynolds’ annoyance, and a rather brilliant car chase that ends with a car of exploding bullets. There is additionally another scene in a car where the radio is busted and they battle each other with songs, to such a hilarious degree I hope it would play some role in the climax, rather than just a standard shootout with the bad guy being shot off the roof. And for as absurd as it is that Reynolds can somehow survive being flung through a windshield when it seems that every other character is ripped to shreds, there’s a certain hilarity to its showcase at how Jackson is just as confused as the audience is at such a stunt.
While there are a few thrills and smiles to be had, I was ultimately dismayed that the bulk of the comedy revolves around Reynolds and Jackson cursing at each other, trying to see who can spout expletives the loudest. There’s gotta be more to their comedy than this. It really says something when the funniest thing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the poster, boasting Reynolds and Jackson in a parody image of The Bodyguard, with Ryan Reynolds holding Samuel L. Jackson in his arms.