THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD review by Mark Walters – Ryan Reynolds “guards” Sam Jackson

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD review by Mark Walters – Ryan Reynolds “guards” Sam Jackson
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These days action movies seem to be getting a tad too predictable, to the point where it took Sylvester Stallone bringing together almost every major action movie star in his EXPENDABLES films to breathe new life into the genre. So what’s the next natural step? Making these movies tongue-in-cheek, perhaps just poking fun at the genre in general? Why not. THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is appropriately directed by Patrick Hughes (THE EXPENDABLES 3), but unlike his last effort this one is a bit more balanced and much more entertaining.

UK-based Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a self-proclaimed AAA-rate bodyguard who exudes class, lives well, and drives the finest cars. We’re shown one of his jobs protecting a successful foreign businessman with his security team, and taken all the way to the private jet as the client is just about to leave. It appears to be another job well done for Bryce… until it’s not. The devastating outcome ruins him, and two years later he’s reduced to guarding shady failed businessmen pumping themselves with drugs, and doing it without a backup team. We also see his lifestyle has changed, even his car is forgettable and stinks constantly from a previous job. Meanwhile, Interpol is trying to bring down Russian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), but they need the testimony of professional assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to finish the job, and they’re using his imprisoned wife Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) as leverage. Bryce’s ex-girlfriend Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) is the agent assigned to transport Kincaid to the trial, but finds this to be a tough task thanks to an inside leak and Dukhovich’s goons. So she reluctantly calls Michael for help, only to find he and Kincaid have history that isn’t pretty. Not knowing who she can trust, Amelia allows Michael to take Kincaid off the grid in hopes that they can complete the mission before Dukhovich wipes all of them out.

Now, if you took that plot synopsis at face value, you could easily have a serious action thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat for a few hours… but that’s not what THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD has in mind. This is about as close to satire as you can get without going full on Zucker Brothers style. Ryan Reynolds, who is usually playing his roles over-the-top and manic, switches things up a bit here by playing the straight man, while Sam Jackson takes on an obnoxious and unpredictable persona that results in fun if at times raunchy comedy. Their chemistry together is quite effective, playing two dudes who really don’t like each other but have to work together. It’s a bit like LETHAL WEAPON if Riggs and Murtaugh hated each other’s guts. There’s also some amusingly sweet moments mixed in the narrative to show a more human side to these fellas, which was smart, as otherwise the audience might have still laughed along but not latched on to them very strongly. It’s an exceptionally violent film, sometimes shockingly so, though almost always played more for a chuckle than to gross you out. One scene that is quite effective involves Kincaid recounting how he met his wife in a rough bar where she was waitressing… it’s ridiculous and gratuitous, but oh so fun to watch.

The supporting cast all give solid readings as well, though at times they feel like they’re starring in another movie entirely, one that isn’t as funny as this one is trying to be. Elodie Yung is good as Michael’s ex, but I wanted a little more back story on the two of them, particularly their separation. Some of the most interesting bits between them are only hinted at, though it’s possible some ideas were filmed and cut for time. Gary Oldman could have been used a little better as the main villain of the piece, though he always excels at playing bad guys. His inclusion feels like they talked a talented actor into playing what ended up being a somewhat throwaway role, although I will say sometimes just having him on screen gives unexpected gravitas to otherwise by-the-numbers moments. The great Joaquim de Almeida gets some nice scenes as the Interpol commander with his own agenda, and in some ways is almost a better villain than the one the filmmakers intended. But Salma Hayek is the strongest of the supporting characters, really chewing scenery and having a blast as Kincaid’s equally scary better half. Hayek’s age is starting to show a bit these days, but she’s still just as sexy and fun as she was when she first hit the Hollywood scene, and this is a film that makes great use of her abilities.

The only downside to the production is its running time, which feels a bit excessive at times, and easily could have been trimmed down. Comedies are tricky, as they can wear out their welcome no matter how entertaining they may seem, and this one comes very close. Thankfully the overall exercise is quite entertaining, and one of the more pleasing films of the year, thanks largely to the dynamic between the two leads. With spectacular stunts and furious action scenes, and some really hearty laughs, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD is a really fun distraction that should quickly become an audience favorite.

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD opens August 18, 2017

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community’s leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.