The Hitman's Bodyguard

hitmans-bodyguard-rev The Hitman’s Bodyguard  (2017)    Summit/Action-Comedy    RT: 118 minutes    Rated R (strong violence and language throughout)    Director: Patrick Hughes    Screenplay: Tom O’Connor    Music: Atli Orvarsson    Cinematography: Jules O’Loughlin    Release date: August 18, 2017 (US)    Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Kristy Mitchell, Richard E. Grant, Tine Joustra, Sam Hazeldine, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Michael Gor.

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 It hasn’t been the greatest summer for movies. Box office is down 12% compared to last year. Sure-fire hit sequels missed the mark. Plus, many of them just aren’t that good. I had no reason to expect that The Hitman’s Bodyguard would be any better. I mean, why else would the studio wait until mid-August to release a movie with big name stars like Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) and Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers)? It has to suck, right? Wrong, in this case anyway. It’s actually a pretty good flick. The two stars have great chemistry with each other and with co-star Salma Hayek (Desperado) as Jackson’s spitfire wife. It has lots of action, violence and cool stunts. It’s also quite funny.

 hitmans bodyguardOne thing The Hitman’s Bodyguard is not, however, is original. The mismatched partner action-comedy is a staple of cinema. The formula has proven successful in many cases. Audiences enjoy watching an unlikely duo putting aside their differences to achieve a common goal. Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) sticks to the formula, never thinking too far out of the box. He’s done his homework too. The Hitman’s Bodyguard contains echoes of 48 Hrs, Lethal Weapon, Midnight Run, The Gauntlet and even Planes, Trains and Automobiles. At least he chose good movies to emulate.

 After failing to protect a client, a big no-no in the bodyguard-for-hire profession, Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is reduced to protecting coked-up lawyers and other low-rent gigs. Then one day, his ex-girlfriend Amelia (Yung, Gods of Egypt) calls. She’s an Interpol agent and needs his help. She and her team were ambushed by mercenaries while escorting a witness to the Hague. She’s the only agent to survive the attempted hit on hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson). He’s agreed to testify against Dukhovich (Oldman, Air Force One), the ruthless dictator of Belarus, for crimes against humanity in exchange for the release and exoneration of his incarcerated wife Sonia (Hayek). Witnesses against Dukhovich have a tendency to die. Amelia believes he has a mole in the agency; Bryce is the only one she trusts to deliver Kincaid to the Hague in time to testify.

 The two men know each other; Kincaid has previously attempted to kill Bryce 28 times. He doesn’t like his new client very much but he agrees to help his ex in exchange for restoration of his triple-A rating. The bickering starts before they even hit the road. They’re polar opposites. Bryce is white; Kincaid is black. Bryce is young; Kincaid is older. Bryce is super-cautious; Kincaid is reckless. They have about a day to get from London to the Hague. Naturally, their trip is fraught with mishap and misadventure.

 The Hitman’s Bodyguard will NEVER be mistaken for high art. It will, however, please audiences looking for an escape from reality. It’s fun. Not only that, it hits more than it misses. Much of The Hitman’s Bodyguard works. Reynolds and Jackson have great chemistry together. It never once feels forced like Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence. Both actors play to their strengths especially Jackson who still has a way with f-words (all variations!). Reynolds displays some of his trademark sarcastic wit. At one point, he complains that Kincaid has single-handedly ruined a certain term with the initials m.f. It’s one the movie’s best in-jokes. Hayek is a hoot as Kincaid’s wife. It’s funny as hell to see her calmly striking yoga poses in her cell while she angrily lashes out at law enforcement officials who have the nerve to bother her. She also forces her cellmate to stand in the corner and not look at her. Her best scene is a flashback showing how she and Kincaid first met when she was working as a waitress in a grungy Mexican bar. I’ll only say this; The Hitman’s Bodyguard does for Lionel Richie’s “Hello” what Clockwork Orange did for “Singin’ in the Rain”. The only real disappointment is Oldman who doesn’t bring his A-game to the movie. He’s constantly overshadowed by his co-stars. He should have tapped into his villain from Leon the Professional a bit more.

 The action scenes are well-orchestrated. The climactic chase in which several bad guys are violently dispatched by our heroes is especially good. It reaches cartoon proportions at times but it’s the right fit for The Hitman’s Bodyguard, a movie that the makers never intended to be taken seriously. For a comedy, this movie is surprisingly violent and bloody. In one scene, Bryce tries to take out a bad guy with an axe, nail gun and chain wrapped around the neck. When all that fails, he shoots him. It’s okay though because The Hitman’s Bodyguard offers up plenty of bloodless comedic moment like Jackson singing along with a vanload of Italian nuns. In another scene, he and Reynolds engage in a sing-off of sorts with Jackson belting out a blues tune and Reynolds countering with Ace of Base’s “I Saw the Sign”. It has something of a semi-serious side too with Jackson offering Reynolds advice on repairing his relationship with Amelia.

 I had a great time watching The Hitman’s Bodyguard. It’s a bit overlong but I didn’t really mind. It’s a very enjoyable late summer action-comedy, perfect for a night at the movies. It’s not an assault on the senses. While it’s extremely profane, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. It’s not cheapened by a lot of unnecessary crude humor. A couple of piss jokes and a running joke about a car that “smells like ass”, that’s it. Most importantly, it’s not mean-spirited. It’s surprisingly good-natured for a movie about a bloodthirsty Eastern European tyrant. It’s a sweet cinematic surprise.

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