Movie Review: ‘Hitman’s Bodyguard’ a Solid, if Derivative, Actioner
Samuel L. Jackson is the hitman and Ryan Reynolds is the bodyguard in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, a generic 80s/90s-style buddy-action movie that’s nevertheless far better than it ought to be thanks to some committed acting and fluid direction.
The only real hindrances here are an uneven tone and roundabout story, which takes an awfully long time to unravel before we get to any of the good stuff.
It revolves around not the Reynolds or Jackson characters but instead on Vladislav Dukhovich, played by Gary Oldman in stock villain mode. He’s a ruthless Bulgarian dictator (jeez, they usually make up a fictional Eastern European country) who murders a family in cold blood in an opening prologue before finding himself on trial as a war criminal in The Hague.
The testimony of the surviving husband is not enough to put Dukhovich behind bars, so Interpol decides to bring in notorious international assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) to speak out against him. For some reason. The evidence Kincaid has on the dictator is not revealed until the end, and apparently unknown to Interpol, anyway.
Nevertheless, young agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) is charged with delivering Kincaid from his London cell the The Hague courtroom - by 5 p.m. tomorrow, lest the genocidal dictator go free. It’s a real problem, because Dukhovich’s goons ambush the motorcade after a few blocks and lay waste to everyone except Kincaid.
Enter Roussel’s ex-b.f. Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a formerly AAA-rated "private security expert" and the only person Roussell can trust. While their breakup was a messy one, Bryce begrudgingly accepts the mission of getting the hitman to The Hague.
After about 25 minutes of exposition, the derivative Midnight Run-esque plot has been shored up and Jackson and Reynolds are finally given the green light to cut loose and carry this thing to its protracted finale. And along with some nifty action scenes late in the game, the stars deliver with gusto.
But while the cast and director frequently seem to be playing this thing for laughs, I only wish the script followed suit; the genocidal dictator storyline doesn’t at all jive with the flippant attitude the filmmakers bring to the material.
Director Patrick Hughes previously made The Expendables 3, which might be the best film in the Expendables franchise (faint praise), and also the terrific Aussie actioner Red Hill. He knows how to shoot and edit an action sequence, and affirms his proficiency here.
That results in at least two slam-bang action sequences during the course of the movie, though one comes right after the other and they both feature during a lengthy climax. Still, if you’ve stuck around this long, chase scenes through the canals of Amsterdam and the streets of The Hague at around the 90-100 minute mark will send you off on an action-movie high note.
Confined to a cell and separated from the main action for the entire film, Salma Hayek is nevertheless a real highlight here as Kincaid’s imprisoned wife; I was wondering just why the film kept cutting back to her, but she steals the film with a relentless string of verbal profanities that outdoes even Jackson.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard doesn’t break the mold for this kind of thing, but within its own parameters it’s fast, loose, and generally fun, even if it’s about 20 minutes too long. Still, you could do far worse among August options at the multiplex .