Overview: A fallen-from-grace bodyguard protects a hitman on his way to testify against the dictator of Belarus in an international court. Lionsgate Films; 2017; Rated R; 118 Minutes.
The Good: Likely, the main reason(s) anybody is going to see The Hitman’s Bodyguard is for Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Each plays a role that he has been playing for years, shoehorned into a story about international intrigue and a theme of planning vs. rolling with the punches. The story is a McGuffin of sorts, only there to explain away why formerly AAA rated bodyguard, Michael Bryce (Reynolds), is protecting the notorious hitman, Darius Kincaid (Jackson). Kincaid has evidence he will testify to against the leader of Belarus, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), and Interpol, originally transporting him from prison to the trial, has been compromised. Bryce’s ex, as Kincaid’s handler, calls the former in as an outside help.
From there, Bryce and Kincaid have some fun banter, with Reynolds playing the fast-talking quipster he always is and Jackson cursing and laughing at his own jokes. There is a good action sequence in the third act, with some interesting close-quarter combat. There’s a great gag of Reynolds ignoring action directly behind him, playing a classic trope in his personal style. Salma Hayek has a small role as Kincaid’s wife, and her scenes outshine the rest of the movie (brightly-lit as it is). Her ferocious performance deserves its own movie more than those of the two leads combined.
The Forgettable: The plot of The Hitman’s Bodyguard comes and goes, leaving little impression. Gary Oldman’s performance as the awkwardly accented leader Dhukovich is bland. Even the gasp moment revealing his atrocities feels empty. The lighting of outdoor scenes is too bright, with an uncomfortable soft glow to everything, and the added bonus of making Reynolds’s face look orange and full of botox.
Action is filmed by somebody who must admire the works of Matthew Vaughn and Guy Ritchie, coming across as a poor imitation of their respective styles. The soundtrack blares with trite music that tries to tell the story by itself, taking the obvious route every time. When music says “this is action-packed” in the background of a run-of-the-mill chase scene, the mediocrity starts to feel even worse.
The story (and some of the comedy) hits the same potholes too, doing everything one could expect in a by-the-numbers action/comedy. Anybody with a background in the genre could announce what will happen at the start of a new moment, from a gag in the style of “could be worse, could be raining” to a record-scratch punchline. When the expected plays out, there is little that excites or thrills, that invents or goes beyond the norm. It’s all obvious and there’s nothing very clever about any of it.
The Rub: In any other year, The Hitman’s Bodyguard could have been a decent movie to while away those empty hours, seeming like something that could be funny, beating out the alternative of nothing better to do. In a summer of excellent other options, it is just a poor choice to waste time with. Better action could be found in Baby Driver, humor in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and a plethora of other films offer the feeling that they were created carefully and with love. Maybe just watch the best-of clips when they hit YouTube. Or just give Salma Hayek her own movie next time.