Should I Watch..? 'The Hitman's Bodyguard'
What's the big deal?
The Hitman's Bodyguard is an action comedy film released in 2017 and is based on Tom O'Conner's screenplay which featured on the 2011 Black List, a survey of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as a bodyguard fallen on hard times who is recruited to protect professional assassin Samuel L Jackson on their way to the International Criminal Court, where Jackson is the star witness. The film also stars Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek and Élodie Yung and was directed by Patrick Hughes. Despite mixed reviews, the film topped the US box office in its first weekend and would go on to earn more than $176 million globally. The film is an old-school 'odd couple' shooter but one where both Reynolds and Jackson essentially play versions of themselves to great comic effect.
What's it about?
Michael Bryce is a former CIA operative and professional bodyguard who has fallen on hard times, now plying his trade for coked-up executives in the UK. Meanwhile, the dictatorial president of Belarus Vladislav Dukhovich is due to answer for his many crimes at the International Criminal Court in the Hague but with the world's media turning their attention to the case, things don't look good for the prosecution as witnesses have a habit of turning up dead. Their only hope rests with legendary assassin Darius Kincaid, presently in custody in Manchester. He agrees to testify in exchange for his wife Sonia being released from custody.
However, things quickly go south during Kincaid's transport to the ICC after his armed convey is attacked. After a bloody shoot-out, Kincaid escapes with Interpol agent Amelia Roussel who notifies her superiors of the ambush and the obvious knowledge that a mole is operating at Interpol. Requiring someone outside of the loop to get Kincaid to the Hague, Amelia contacts her ex Bryce to protect Kincaid from whatever forces are out there. But Bryce is far from happy with the arrangement with the antagonist Kincaid constantly ignoring his instructions and bad guys never that far behind.
Samuel L Jackson
Joaquim de Almeida
Assistant Director Jean Focuher
Release Date (UK)
17th August, 2017
Action, Comedy, Thriller
What's to like?
The Hitman's Bodyguard is one of those films that realises its own limitations - it won't earn much recognition come award season so it decides to be a straight-up old-school blast of action with two of the most charismatic leading men in Hollywood. Reynolds, still enjoying his post-Deadpool renaissance, recycles much of Wade Wilson's irreverent style and it clashes well with Jackson's potty-mouthed ultra-cool hitman. The pair engage in several exhilarating action sequences including a boat chase and shootout in Amsterdam, one of the best such scenes I've seen in a long time. In between, the pair of them spark off each other brilliantly and they make the comedy feel natural amidst such excessive violence.
Luckily, they are helped by a solid supporting cast. Hayek is hilarious as Kincaid's wife, whose fiery Latino temper intimidates everyone from her cell-mate to her captors. And although Yung hasn't much to do, she delivers a cool performance as the increasingly exasperated Roussel. The film also benefits from its change of setting - while this film could easily have been filmed in the US, it makes a pleasant change to see such explosive action on the streets of London and canals of Amsterdam. Not since the heyday of the Bond series has a film utilised its surrounding quite so well. Lastly, I also enjoyed the soundtrack - any use of Spiderbait is alright with me!
- Samuel L Jackson swears 122 times in the film with his favourite phrase (the one he's most associated with, if you catch my meaning) being uttered 22 times.
- The film features a number of actors cast in superhero movies. Reynolds plays Deadpool in the aforementioned film, Jackson has played Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2008, Yung plays Elektra in the TV series Daredevil, Oldman played Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and Richard E. Grant plays Dr Zander Rice in Logan.
- The design for the movie poster seen above obviously imitates the poster for The Bodyguard. It even uses the same tag lines although the pronouns have been changed.
What's not to like?
Anybody looking for realism, cohesion or genuinely thrilling cinema should look elsewhere. The Hitman's Bodyguard is an orgy of foul-mouthed, bloody violence and hilariously excessive explosions which reminded me of the sort of nonsense Arnold Schwarzenegger would have loved in the late Eighties. Yes, the film is a lot of fun thanks to Reynolds and Jackson's chemistry and banter but without it, the film is a badly arranged jumble of action scenes and basic exposition.
Worse still, Oldman is underused as Dukhovich who only really seems to come alive during the closing courtroom scenes. Considering that his next film would be his Oscar-winning appearance in Darkest Hour, he gives the impression of someone understandably keen to move on to their next project. There is also a detectable whiff of project-placement, especially with a certain car manufacturer who would be delighted to have one of their biggest selling models featured so prominently. Incidentally, if said car manufacturer want me to give them a mention then feel free to send me a big fat cheque! I can't fault the film for entertaining me but I wanted to have the odd surprise here and there. Am I being greedy here?
Should I watch it?
The Hitman's Bodyguard is a real surprise, being both a gripping action film as well as a winning comedy thanks to the performances and chemistry from its two leads. It flounders a little away from Reynolds and Jackson but the two handle the film with seasoned professionalism and deliver a film that is more fun than it might otherwise have been.
Great For: action fans, driving instructors, British audiences, professional bodyguards
Not So Great For: the easily offended, Mormons, children
What else should I watch?
Reynolds' career was fading from significance before Deadpool single-handedly revived it in 2016. It's no hyperbole that the role of Wade Wilson saved Reynolds from a depressing decline into B-grade rom-coms and cameos, by being a refreshingly adult and post-modern superhero that fans of the character had been crying out for. With two sequels in the pipeline (Deadpool 2 was released in May 2018) and a X-Force spin-off just being announced, the future looks good for the Merc With A Mouth.
Jackson, of course, is probably nearing the end of his career after many years service. From iconic appearances in Pulp Fiction, central performances as Nick Fury in the numerous MCU movies to indie dramas like Chi-Raq and Black Snake Moan, Jackson is an actor not afraid to take risks or even poke fun at himself as he does in The Hitman's Bodyguard. He does the same thing in the ridiculous Snakes On A Plane where he once again uses his favourite twelve-letter expletive. Twice.
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© 2018 Benjamin Cox