2017 | rated R | starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Elodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman | directed by Patrick Hughes | 1hr 58mins |
Studio Pitch: I bet there wasn’t one. Someone wrote the title on a whiteboard, dropped the marker and walked out.
The best, and most immediately apparent, thing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is how quickly it moves. Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) knows this is just a goofy, mis-matched partners movie, keeps exposition to an absolute minimum and launches into the action almost immediately. I imagine that the entire movie fell together with that kind of momentum. Some producer probably bought the film after seeing the title on the cover of the script. Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds plays Ryan Reynolds and we drop into their lives in what feels like mid-conversation where everyone has a history. The movie uses their established personas to quickly reinforce Jackson as the badass and Reynolds as the smartass we all want to see and puts them together with minimal effort.
A vicious madman (Gary Oldman, effortlessly deeper in character than this movie would have required) is on trial in the Haige for war crimes and the only witness who can put him away is Jackson, who has to get to the courthouse – but oh no, Interpol has been compromised so the agent in charge of transporting him (Elodie Yung, Elektra in Daredevil) has to call in her down-and-out and off-the-grid ex (Reynolds) to make the transport. And we’re off on a series of violent chase scenes and delightfully profane arguments between the two. It’s all perfectly set-up for maximum fun, but something doesn’t quite click here in the execution and it’s hard to tell what.
There isn’t one, obvious thing wrong here, it’s more like death by a thousand cuts. The movie slowly dragged down by the weight of each joke and one-liner rolling out of the actor’s mouths and hitting the floor dead. All the right elements are orbiting around somewhere and the movie just can’t pull them quite together. It seems like someone gave the script a once over and inserted the butt jokes, then later went through the editing room and inserted fart and cartoonish swoosh sound effects. Reynolds is kind of great at exploding in vulgar exasperated outbursts and Jackson is great poking and prodding him. They just don’t have good material to work with. In the Odd Couple formula, Reynolds is the straight-laced one obsessed with safety, order and regaining his “AAA status” and Jackson is the impulsive, sage one who seems impervious to the chaos he creates. For a mis-matched partners action-comedy, the movie falls into the same gap so many other studio action/comedies do: it isn’t funny enough – going for the obvious joke every time – and eventually we learn the action (capped off by a decent, if cartoonish, boat/motorcycle chase through Amsterdam) isn’t wild enough to generate excitement. That’s another thing. Bodyguard is basically a road trip movie that goes all over Europe from London to The Netherlands and it never pauses for a second to let us feel like we’re actually in those countries.
The film is kept light and breezy. Inoffensive but utterly forgettable, going through the road trip motions most of the time. It perks up in an extended third act, but at that point everything has been established as such an inconsequential cartoon that nothing matters. It doesn’t seem to have it’s own voice or sense of humor or take on the genre it’s inhabiting. Instead of having Jackson and Reynolds trade quips, the screenplay has settled on the bulk of their conversations being devoted to, not comedy, not dodging bullets, but Jackson’s master assassin giving Reynolds love advise. Will he warm his heart and get back with Yung’s Interpol agent? Will Jackson get to see his wife (Salma Hayek) again after he let love get his guard down? You’ve heard it all before. Bodyguard didn’t need to be serious or character focused, but it needed to have something.