Film Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard

An above-average, obscenity-laden buddy comedy that mostly excels due to the brilliant comic pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.
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The buddy action-comedy may have seen better days, but there are still filmmakers inspired enough by the classics to keep the tradition alive. Fortunately for them, there’s enough comic talent out there who have yet to be teamed up in an action setting so that the genre can still offer a surprise or two.

In The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, an elite protection agent (i.e., bodyguard), whose AAA rating is stripped from him after a botched assignment. Meanwhile, assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) has been called to The Hague as a witness to testify against his client, a Belarusian dictator (Gary Oldman). His minder, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), also happens to be Bryce’s ex, and she calls him in to protect her witness on the long trip with the promise he’ll get his rating back if he helps.

The reason Bryce and Kincaid don’t get along should be fairly obvious—Kincaid’s occupation is to kill Bryce’s clients—so putting them in a car together and expecting them not to kill each other on the journey might be wishful thinking.

That plot may be more complicated than it needs to be in order to get Jackson and Reynolds driving across the country together, but it really isn’t any more implausible than the plot of, say, 48 Hrs.

Over his long career, Jackson has done more than his share of these buddy action-comedies, being paired with everyone from Eugene Levy to the late Bernie Mac. Even his pairing with Travolta in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction could, in some ways, be considered a buddy comedy.

Whoever realized Jackson and Reynolds would work so well together probably deserves a raise. As much as the plot itself might not be particularly original or inventive, the way these two take constant verbal shots at each other is what makes the movie so entertaining.

At 69 years old, Jackson is surprisingly spry, although it’s hard to imagine anyone will believe he or Reynolds is doing all his own impressive stunt work himself. That’s just a small part of the film’s action, which includes a few elaborate chases through the streets (and rivers) of Amsterdam. Director Patrick Hughes—best known for the lackluster The Expendables 3—proves he has just as strong a knack for the inherent humor necessary to the genre as he does for making those action scenes exciting.

At times, The Hitman’s Bodyguard feels like the type of movie Luc Besson has excelled at over his lengthy career, to the point where you might wonder why his name doesn’t appear in the end credits. The movie may not be nearly as stylish as what Besson might have produced nor the current Atomic Blonde, but it makes up for that with laughs.

One place where this buddy comedy excels compared to weaker offerings is that it makes sure both guys have women they love behind their motivations. Salma Hayek’s role as Darius’ imprisoned wife Sonia is particularly strong because she gets to swear up a storm just like Jackson, adding another level of humor. She doesn’t have that much to do with the main story taking place—Darius agrees to testify to get her freed—but every 15 minutes or so Hughes can cut to her in prison and get a few laughs.

Sadly, the normally great Oldman’s role as a relatively behind-the-scenes baddie doesn’t offer a lot for him to do, other than to show off an uncharacteristically shoddy Russian accent in his few scenes.

Those few problems are minor, and while The Hitman’s Bodyguard may have its work cut out for itself in terms of making a lasting mark in the buddy action-comedy genre, the brilliant pairing of Jackson with Reynolds makes it worthwhile entertainment.

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