FILM REVIEW – THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD. With Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung. Written by Tom O’Connor. Directed by Patrick Hughes. Rated R for strong violence and language throughout. 118 minutes.
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD takes its inspiration from several sources. It’s less an original movie than an original mash-up, featuring laughs, thrills, and enough bloody action for those craving an R-rated shoot-’em-up.
It takes a little time for the movie to get up to speed. We first meet Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) who is a “triple-A-rated” bodyguard. He plans everything out, checks every last detail, and his motto is “boring is good.” But then things go wrong, and he no longer gets the prestige jobs.
Meanwhile, dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) is on trial at the World Court in the Hague, but he has made sure there that there is little in the way of hard evidence or living witnesses to be used against him. The one last hope of the prosecution is international hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), who has had some dealings with Dukhovich. Already imprisoned, he’s offered a deal: testify and they’ll release his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), who is being held by Interpol.
That’s the setup, and it takes a massive shootout for Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) to turn to her ex-boyfriend–Bryce–to get Kincaid to the Netherlands before the court’s deadline. Once Bryce and Kincaid get together, there’s no stopping the film. Not only do they have a history, but they are the Odd Couple of action heroes. Bryce is the neurotic, buttoned-down, play-it-by-the-book character, who still blames Amelia for the collapse of his career. Kincaid is the loose, improvisational killer who fell in love with Sonia when he saw her make a bloody mess of a roomful of assailants singlehandedly.
Now take this Odd Couple and put them in a Road Runner cartoon where they are being chased by Interpol, local police, and hired killers sent by Dukhovich and you’re in for a wild ride. After more than a hundred years of movies you would think that every possible gag has been worked into a chase scene, but setting one in Amsterdam involving streets, sidewalks, bridges, and the canals with the various parties working at cross-purposes proves to be a winning combination.
Ryan and Jackson have a potent if unexpected rapport, and the script by Tom O’Connor keeps it balanced so it’s not like Bryce is always Kincaid’s patsy. Indeed, part of the chemistry involves them grudgingly coming to respect each other, determined to complete the job they’ve set out to do. Oldman is perhaps a bit too dark as the film’s villain, but then the film isn’t kidding around about the violence. The bodies pile up and only rarely are we spared the interaction of weapon and victim. Director Patrick Hughes does seem to get those moments where that’s not entertainment, and pulls back from showing all.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” mixes the violence, the chases, and some quirky humor into a potent late summer cocktail. For those who like their action movies with a kick, this is a real adrenaline rush.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.