It’s deceiving for “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” to pretend that Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are playing anyone other than Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. These two actors have a brand and they each stick to it for nearly every minute of this violent “Midnight Run” wannabe action-buddy comedy. They stay so close to their actual personas that Reynolds actually mocks how Jackson says “motherf*****.”
With comedy like that, you’d maybe think that “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is self-aware. Alas, that is not the case. This movie stinks of a screenplay that became tailored to its stars after they were cast. How, exactly, this B- movie script got into the hands of actors like Reynolds, Jackson, Salma Hayek, and Gary Oldman is a question that can only be answered by their agents and/or bank accounts.
Reynolds is Michael Bryce, an A-list bodyguard that takes gigs protecting rich people from hit men. After Bryce’s last gig protecting someone super rich goes bad, he finds himself on the outs with his clients and his Interpol agent girlfriend, Amelia (Elodie Yung).
Two years go by and we meet Darius Kincaid (Jackson), one of the world’s most famous and lethal hit men. Kincaid works out a deal with Interpol to testify against Vladislav Dukhovich (Oldman), a brutal dictator who has Belurus under the heel of his boot. In exchange for testimony against him, Interpol agrees to release Kincaid’s wife, Sonia (Hayek), from an Amsterdam prison.
Naturally, there’s an Interpol mole and Dukhovich’s nameless, beard-laden Eastern European goons try to take out Kincaid before he gets to the Hague to testify. Oh, guess what? Amelia is Kincaid’s main Interpol protection and when she realizes her organization is compromised, who does she turn to for help? Well, Michael Bryce, of course. All together now…no way!
From there, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” becomes a road movie with loads of snark and forced character development smushed between some extremely bloody, graphic violence. Sure, there are some decent zingers and one liners, but the violence is so brutal and lacking in fun that it’s tough to tell if we’re meant to laugh or cringe. The movie can’t decide if it wants to be a tough action flick or a dark comedy with the bloody deaths as reason for perverse chuckles.
Director Patrick Hughes uses flashbacks to get some character exposition out and most of them are unbearable to watch. Every single one of them uses classic pop music in an effort to Tarantino-up the violence, but only one instance of it works. Look, watching Salma Hayek brutally maul an entire Mexican bar full of dudes with Lionel Ritchie blaring is about as close to a lay up as possible and that scene doesn’t disappoint.
In fact, nearly every second of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” that Salma Hayek is on screen is better than the others. She’s basically doing a crazed Hispanic female version of Sam Jackson in, well, nearly everything and Hayek is definitely loving it. She’s a top notch purveyor of profanity and out-swears two actors that revel in all forms of the F-word.
You have to give Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson credit. They are constantly playing versions of themselves, but they never seem asleep at the switch. Reynolds is obnoxious, yet likable…so pretty much the same as you’ve seen him in what seems like countless movies just like this one. He’s fully committed to his bit, but it’s more fun to pick out what Reynolds ad libbed than the actual movie itself. That’s probably not good.
It’s easy to figure out what Samuel L. Jackson added to the script: just count the “motherf******.” Jackson essentially says it in every single sentence and it’s childishly funny at times. He does manage to limp around for the majority of the movie after being shot in the leg, which is physically impressive, but you never feel like you’re watching a character. It’s simply a cartoon-like, bug-eyed Sam Jackson as a hit man instead of a credit card pitchman.
Okay, it’s unfair to call “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” terrible. It’s not. If you completely power down your brain and common sense detectors, it’s a fun, stupid romp across Europe with two fun actors. However, it’s tough to watch Reynolds and Jackson do the same thing over and over and that makes this movie a disappointing case of more of the same.