The Hitman’s Bodyguard and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate
Directed by Patrick Hughes
Okay, so MAYBE Atomic Blonde didn’t turn out to be everything I was hoping for, but that’s not the ONLY move I was looking forward to this year! Who DOESN’T want to see two of the best action/comedy actors of the modern age bounce off of each other in an over the top buddy shoot’em up!? That’s at least what we were promised in the trailers, but if there’s one thing that Atomic Blonde (and admittedly lots of other movies) has taught me, it’s that trailers aren’t always the best at telling you what a movie will ACTUALLY be about. I know; SHOCKING revelation there! Does the team up between these two titans of Hollywood blockbusters manage to work even better together than they do as individuals, or was this a team up worse than when Pouty Superman fought with Even Poutier Batman for no reason whatsoever? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who is a TOP NOTCH bodyguard with his own security company that’s apparently richer than half their clients considering how styling him and his crew are, but his idyllic life of protecting the rich and powerful is abruptly brought to an end when someone he’s supposed to be protecting gets shot right the head by an unknown sniper. He spends the next few years stewing in his own self-loathing and is stuck protecting losers and drug addicted lawyers as he tries to climb his way back to the top. An opportunity presents itself though when super hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) is to be brought before an international court to testify against the Belarusian Dictator (Gary Oldman) who everyone seems to know committed NUMEROUS war crimes, but only Kincaid has the evidence… for some reason. Michael is given a chance to possibly redeem himself if he can get Darius to The Netherlands in one piece as the Belarusian Dictator is sending out a lot of hired goons to put him in a body bag before he can testify. That’s not the REAL problem though. No, what’s REALLY gonna make this the mission from hell is that Darius is a TOTAL asshole who likes to do things dirty which clashes with Michael’s preference of being clean and professional about everything he does. It’s like The Odd Couple, but with guns and a lot more swearing! I don’t recall Walter Matthau calling people mother fucker before shooting them in the head! Can these two get along JUST long enough for Darius to testify and put that dictator behind bars once and for all? Will Michael finally redeem himself and get his life back on track after delivering Darius to the international authorities, or will he end up shooting him in the head out of sheer frustration before that? Seriously, does Samuel L Jackson own the rights to the words mother fucker? He HAS to be getting royalties considering how much he says that!
I should have known better. I really should have. Look, this movie isn’t TERRIBLE as Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson are enjoyable to watch in even the WORST films, but this is ultimately a half-assed affair that is reminiscent of both actors more forgettable features like X-Men Origins: Wolverine and xXx: Return of Xander Cage. For some reason, the trailer just sold me that this film was going to be a non-stop adrenaline fueled action film pumped up by strong comedic performances from our two leads, and while moments of this movie do show that potential, it’s ultimately much more sedate and obnoxious than the trailer would leave you to believe while also feeling like they didn’t even bother to finish the damn thing considering how mediocre the plot is and how spotty some of the special effects are. Then again, when the best tagline they could come up with one of the posters is “Get Triggered”, I really don’t have anyone but myself to blame for getting overly excited for this.
This movie does manage to get a few things right in fits and spurts; namely when it comes to its two lead characters and the action sequences. We all know that our two leads are both fantastic actors and terrible at choosing scrips; hence why Ryan Reynolds entire career is hanging on by an officially licensed Deadpool thread (hurry to your nearest comic book convention to buy one today!) and Samuel L Jackson is in about thirty movies on Netflix that you’ve never heard of. Despite their failings from time to time, I do genuinely love seeing them on screen which is primarily why I was excited for this in the first place, and sure they DO get to spout some funny lines and they work pretty well together, I can’t help but think that the material their given is really beneath them; even at this somewhat unstable point in both of their careers. Sure, it’s USUALLY at least somewhat funny, but I was ready to laugh my ass off throughout which sadly never really happened in this which I’m MOSTLY blaming on the script but I’m also not letting them off the hook entirely. They’re not asked to stretch themselves beyond what we already know them for which means they’re basically coasting off of performances we’ve already seen from them. Reynolds isn’t DEADPOOL levels of self-aware snarky, but this has been his modus operandi for nearly two decades; as has Samuel L Jackson being loud and boisterous which he does here to increasingly diminishing returns over the film’s run time. Good actors can’t always save a movie, and it’s hardly their fault when pretty much every aspect of the production is underwhelming, but I was hoping for just a bit more from the two of them! I mean, it’s not like we’ll be getting an Avengers Meets Deadpool movie anytime soon!
The action as well is rather consistently competent throughout though certainly has some severely weak moments worth addressing. There’s some INCREDIBLY blatant stunt work in this movie to the point that Samuel L Jackson’s stunt double should get a co-starring credit which isn’t NECESSARILY a bad thing considering the person throwing his punches for him is pretty good at it, but it ruins the fiction of the movie when you’ve got a character who’s SUPPOSED to be jumping around and shooting people like he’s a robot and yet is played by an actor who can’t convincingly pull off either of those things. No doubt that Jackson is a total badass and could whoop my ass in a heartbeat, but watching him jump down a flight of staircase to beat up a dude half his age and doing so AFTER he got shot just ends up breaking the immersion, and a BETTER movie would have used his age to his advantage by making him a SMARTER criminal instead of poorly pretending that he’s a TOUGHER one. Even when the action is firing on all cylinders, primarily an extended chase sequence toward the end, it’s still only passable and nothing we haven’t seen before in a dozen other movies this year. The only real exception is that Ryan Reynolds has a few fist fights where they get creative (and brutal) with the environment which feels a BIT like a severely watered down version of The Raid which is still honestly better than a lot of action we see elsewhere. It’s a mixed bag to be sure what with some REALLY shaky effects (particularly the CG blood), but it’s just barely good enough to keep you SOMEWHAT engaged in between our two leads’ old married couple shtick.
What ultimately sinks this movie though is its writing and its humor; both of which are extraordinarily lazy and severely undercut whatever good points the movie has. The whole movie is a series of exposition dumps from our characters to explain needlessly complicated backstories, but then it ends up short changing us on information we need to know for the here and now. The movie PEDANTICALLY goes over random points in Samuel L Jackson’s career in an effort to flesh out (and soften) his character, and yet it isn’t until the very end of the movie that we even get a glimpse of what his connection is to our “villain” if you even want to call him that. Speaking of which, Gary Oldman is pretty much an afterthought in this film; giving off a performance s clichéd and poorly written that you forget he’s even in this most of the time. Even worse than that, the movie does a poor job of having any sort cohesive antagonistic presence (there’s like one henchman who’s a tough guy but doesn’t do shit until the end) so the wave after wave of hired goons chasing after them barely registers as a threat which robs this movie of any sort of legitimate tension. They try to compensate for that by introducing a timer into the movie, get Samuel L Jackson to the hearing ON TIME, but that only makes things worse because of how half-assed it’s executed. Maybe I don’t know enough about the legal system, especially ones in other countries, but I doubt that a judge would throw out a case against a genocidal dictator because the key witness is running late; ESPECIALLY when they are IN the freaking city and the court is HIGHLY aware (or at least should be) that the witness has been the target of several assassination attempts up to this point. THERE ARE LITERAL GUNFIGHTS AND CAR CHASES THROUGHOUT THE CITY, yet the court isn’t aware that ANY of this is going on and is still just waiting for the clock to roll over to five o’clock so they can let the dude free and go off to happy hour!? WHAT FREAKING LEGAL PRECEDENT ARE THEY GOING OFF OF!?
There’s a general sense of flippantness about everything in the movie which is supposed to invocate a lighthearted and edgy tone, but it just comes off as smug and self-satisfied to the point of choking on its own cynicism. Who cares if the villains don’t pose a proper threat or that the ticking clock makes no sense? Why should we bother giving a great actor like Joaquim de Almeida anything to do when he can just stand around pretending not to be the most obvious Spoiler Alert in the movie? Samuel L Jackson is yelling MOTHER FUCKER all the time, and we’re calling attention to it! Yeah, that COULD have worked if it was in a story that was actually worth telling, but when the movie is THIS aggressively mediocre it just comes off as desperate and rather annoying. The rest of the humor is just as insufferable, particularly a rather mean spirited joke about Salma Hayek’s cellmate, which further drags a VERY promising premise and a game cast into something that’s worthy of neither. That’s not as bad though as the times where the movie has the gall to try and be SERIOUS which is just as bland and uninspired as most of the humor but has the added bonus of being slightly offensive considering the kind of stand the movie takes on certain issues. I know that Samuel L Jackson is a likable and charismatic dude which is why he can play such a bad person without the audience fully disengaging from his character, but the movie doesn’t have to do that as well which frames him through some sort of rose tinted machismo lens that tries to justify his profession. Look, I love movies about hired killers and macho tough guys as much as the next guy, but I’m not in the mood to get lectured about the moral gray areas about whether or not some people deserve to die in a movie this insipid and shallow; ESPECIALLY when we’re talking about a hitman who pick their targets based on how much money they makes rather than how many lives they’ll save.
The movie is certainly not without its charms, and for a lot of people the humor will hit a lot higher than it did with me. Ultimately though, I was disappointed by this because of how great it COULD have been and how solid the advertisements mad it look. It’s nothing particularly special which to me is the biggest problem, but I guess it’s no worse than other disposable action/comedy fare like the Rush Hour sequels or even something like Central Intelligence. This movie is missing a lot of things from its lackluster special effects to its poorly plotted story, but what it lacks most is a sense of purpose; a drive to be something better than mediocre. Reaching for the low hanging fruit may be easier and will certainly be enough for some people, but for me it just comes off as lazy and uninspired; two things you DON’T want to be associated with a movie that has actors with such big personality. Oh well. Maybe we really WILL get a Deadpool/Avengers crossover if Fox gets desperate enough. We can only hope, right? All it’ll take is just ONE more Fantastic Four film to bomb!