As the summer movie cycle slows down to make way for the slate of Oscar movies to come out this fall and winter, Hollywood provides audiences with film projects that are technically competent enough to justify a summer release, yet still lack the proper writing and storytelling to be considered a success. Director Patrick Hughes, most notably known for directing Expendables 3, delivers thrilling action sequences throughout The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Unfortunately, the lack of a compelling story hinders the overall project into something that is a little less pop and a little more slapstick.
The story here is actually one that is original, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a well-trained bodyguard who has fallen from grace must protect the world’s greatest assassin, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), so that he can testify against Eastern European dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman).
What is a shame is that this movie presented an original idea but did not execute it to its fullest potential. The opening pace is quick and puts the audience right into the action, but as the movie progresses it provides less action and more generic comedy that is not as clever as it pretends to be.
Bryce and Kincaid are clearly defined as a neurotic control freak and a careless improviser, respectively. It quickly becomes apparent that there is no substance here beyond the conflict of these two distinct personalities. It is a movie that is held up by its starpower much more than its content. About 30 minutes into the movie, the only thing audiences are there for is the action and Jackson and Reynolds as quip machines who curse at each other.
The action scenes in the movie are very well put together. There are the conventional action sequences such as gunfights behind exploded cars, and high speed chases through alleyways, bridges, and streets. There are also some unconventional fights in close quarters such as kitchens and hardware stores which provides a unique flavor. Unfortunately, what takes place between the action scenes are not good enough to keep the audience engaged for any meaningful amount of time. The comedy beats become repetitive and boring once Michael and Darius cycle through one round of jokes.
The only investment that felt meaningful in the movie was the relationship between Darius and his wife, Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek). Sonia is in prison, which is why Darius agrees to testify, in order for her to be pardoned. While most of their interactions are done via phone or flashbacks, the connection they have is the only one that feels meaningful. This is a credit to Salma Hayek who plays my favorite character in the movie. She toes the line between firecracker and compassionate lover very well, which is a considerable feat considering how little screen time she has. Because she isn’t overexposed, her bit doesn’t grow stale as Reynolds and Jackson’s does.
The other storylines and themes don’t feel like they have any weight to them. Darius presents to Michael the idea that perhaps their professions aren’t so different, because both involve killing people, but this is dropped as soon as it is picked up. Michael has a tenuous relationship with his ex-girlfriend Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), but it never really hits home. Amelia is an Interpol agent who ropes Michael into protecting Darius because Interpol has become compromised. Unfortunately, their resolution at the end of the movie has no real payoff since they didn’t build toward anything meaningful during the movie. All of the issues Michael has with Amelia are brought up through dialogue with Darius. Furthermore it doesn’t help that Reynolds and Yung don’t have the chemistry to pull off a convincing relationship, in such short time, unlike Jackson and Hayek.
Finally, this movie does not have a good villain. Gary Oldman is a good actor but the character is nothing more than an evil European dictator. There is nothing about Dukhovich that is special or unique. His character is so one note that it felt as if he could have been played by anyone. Considering the villain only has two scenes where he isn’t on trial or in prison, this leaves Oldman with nothing to work with. This makes all of the beats and rhythms with Dukhovich uncompelling to the point of boredom.
Overall, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a generic action comedy that does a couple of things well, but the rest is mediocre. The movie isn’t bad enough to be a spectacle, so unfortunately there is nothing here to recommend. However, if you’re looking to satiate your action fix, and you’ve already seen Atomic Blonde, go see The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
Hitman’s Bodyguard Rating: 5 out of 10