31st Aug2017

‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ Review

by Joel Harley

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Elodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman, Richard E. Grant, Rod Hallett  | Written by Tom O’Connor | Directed by Patrick Hughes

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Professional hitman Darius Kinkaid (Jackson) and executive bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) have both been around a long time. So when Kinkaid is coerced by the government into testifying against a foreign dictator, he’s dropped into the hands of a reluctant Bryce, who wisely wants nothing to do with the man. Movies being movies, this means that the pair should expect to be spending a lot of time together in the imminent future: from England to the Netherlands, in fact.

Likewise, stars Jackson and Reynolds have both been around awhile too, and they easily slip into their respective roles. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is essentially “Samuel L. Jackson Says Motherfucker: The Movie”, playing off the actor’s usual sweary persona even more than his Snakes on a Plane. Reynolds is slightly more nebbish and restrained than usual here, in the straight man role, but there’s still more than a few shades of his Merc with a Mouth to be found.

And so the pair are flung together on a road trip straight out of Midnight Run, crossed with almost any Shane Black buddy comedy one might care to mention. The Hitman’s Bodyguard, however, is no Shane Black movie. It’s what happens when writers who aren’t Shane Black try to be Shane Black, with mixed results. It helps if you like swearing, as the word ‘motherfucker’, and variations upon its suffix make up almost every punchline.

Thankfully, when delivered by two of cinema’s best swearers (one of whom arguably is cinema’s best swearer), that’ll cover a lot of the cracks. Jackson is on fine form here, clearly having a blast with the material, to a contagious extent. Reynolds is fine too, thankfully laying off many of the Reynoldsisms and mostly just reacting to Jackson’s behaviour. His fans will enjoy it, and others will be grateful for a minor break from his Deadpool schtick.

While the men are the star attraction, the show is really stolen by its women, both upstaging their respective love interests. Elodie Yung is better served here than she was in The Defenders (not difficult) and Salma Hayek, as Kinkaid’s wife, is the best thing in the movie. Just briefly, as Salma Hayek beats up a bar full of men to the tune of Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is kind of brilliant.

If only the same could be said for the rest of it. In spite of its all-star cast, good jokes and fun action, it’s surprisingly boring, rambling from predictable set piece to predictable set piece, mired down in its repetitive writing, clichéd story and repetitive writing. Turns out that even watching Samuel L. Jackson say the word ‘motherfucker’ over and over again gets old eventually. Even worse, every single good joke, line and action beat has been ruined by the trailer(s), leaving nothing left for its audience but filler and the B-material. And most unforgivably of all, it wastes the mighty Gary Oldman as its villain (a boring variation upon The Dictator’s General Aladeen) giving one of cinema’s greatest bad guys barely anything to work with.

It’s hideously ugly too. Sure, it may be partly set in Coventry, but that’s no excuse. The whole thing looks super low-budget and overtly blue, like the Straight to DVD feature it secretly is at heart.

Still, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is intermittently good fun, coasting on the charisma and chemistry of its two leads (plus Salma Hayek). In an age where the buddy comedy movie seems to be dying out, it’s good to see one as unashamedly sweary and violent as this. In the end, it’s a mess, but some parts of the journey are pretty great.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is in UK cinemas now.

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