“HITMAN’S BODYGUARD” PACKS A PUNCH IN MINDLESS ACTION FUN
A Film Review by Tim Riley
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (Rated R) An odd couple pairing in a comedic action picture is hardly a new concept, but the idea of teaming Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson as bickering foes united for a common mission seemed an irresistible match of two well-defined personas tailor-made for this genre.“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the kind of mindless action good time that is well-suited for an audience willing to enjoy a bunch of thrills as the summer season comes to a close with the Labor Day weekend.
Moreover, putting two wisecracking guys on a road trip in Europe dodging various henchmen and thugs in spectacular action-fueled car chases and shootouts is bound to offer the kind of popcorn entertainment just about right for a pleasurable diversion.
To be sure, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is devoid of true originality, as the theme has been played out before in a few Shane Black movies, and still one of the best of this kind remains 1988’s “Midnight Run” with the odd couple of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin on a cross-country chase. As a vigilant protection agent fallen on hard times, Reynolds’ Michael Bryce, constantly making wisecracks and hurling a barrage of insults, is a version of Deadpool, but this time in a business suit rather than a homemade superhero outfit.
And Samuel L. Jackson is, well, playing Samuel L. Jackson as we have come to know him in a range of films, from “Pulp Fiction” to “Snakes on a Plane.” As the notorious hitman Darius Kincaid, Jackson gets to frequently use the word “mother” paired with a profanely descriptive vulgarity, if you know what I mean. Working out of London as a high-profile bodyguard who lost his Triple-A rating after sniper fire killed his client, Bryce is approached by an old girlfriend for an odd request to deliver Kincaid to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The former flame is Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), who comes to Bryce for help after her convoy is ambushed while transporting Kincaid. The transport has been compromised by a mole, and Amelia turns to Bryce as the one person she can trust. The trouble is that Kincaid has tried to kill Bryce in attempts numbering in the double digits, but the stakes are high because Kincaid is willing to testify at The Hague in order to free his spitfire wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) from a Dutch maximum security prison.
Wary of helping Kincaid, Bryce nevertheless finds that this assignment could pull him out of the downward spiral of shame where his only clients are now dodgy businessmen dealing with alcohol or drug-related problems.
There’s a funny backstory about how the tough Kincaid and the feisty and strong-willed Sonia first met in a Mexican cantina bar fight, leading to a passionate love affair that continues to flare up with unpredictable outcomes. In a race against time, Bryce must deliver Kincaid as the star witness in the trial of villainous Belarusian tyrant Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), guilty of genocidal crimes against his own people, before the dictator’s goons get to them first.
Of course, Bryce is less than thrilled to be protecting his mortal enemy, risking his own life for a guy he’d prefer to shoot himself before anyone else goes to the trouble. Fireworks between the unwilling allies are unavoidable, and that’s all part of the fun. Apparently, the sneering Dukhovich has hired every bald-headed Eastern European gun-for-hire to assassinate Kincaid and Bryce before they complete a fast trip from Northern England to the North Sea coastal city in the Netherlands.
As the highly skeptical hitman and his completely halfhearted bodyguard embark on a race against henchmen coming at them from every angle, they unwittingly forge their own hilarious, awkward bond. They may not trust each other any further than their trigger fingers can aim, but their volatile mix of aggravation and admiration might just fuel them to band together long enough to make it to The Hague, as long as they don’t kill each other first.
Getting to The Hague involves various improvised means of securing transport, whether stealing cars that “blend-in” or boats, or hitching a ride in a bus full of nuns where Kincaid joins them in song like it was an audition for “The Sound of Music.” There’s near-constant motion from England to The Hague, erupting into outlandish chases by car, motorbike and boat. The most spectacular action scenes occur on the streets and canals of Amsterdam, a scenic city that offers a great backdrop for a lot of wild stunts.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” though it proves to be no one’s idea of anything significantly original, is a lot of fun because Ryan Reynolds as the straight man to Samuel L. Jackson’s unhinged, cursing assassin result in a terrific oddball team where the banter and wisecracks are endlessly amusing. Not to be overlooked is Salma Hayek’s great turn as the firecracker Sonia whose fondness for cursing and intimidation makes an awesome match with Jackson’s equally volatile character. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is silly fun mostly because of its famous stars.