A bodyguard, a hitman, his wife, and her (former) lover all feature into the tangled mess of a narrative within the awkwardly titled Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, a middling sequel to the middling 2017 feature The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The original film was not much of a critical or financial success, and didn’t exactly leave audiences clamoring for a follow-up, leaving this one feeling mostly perfunctory.
In Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds returns as Michael Bryce, a disgraced former bodyguard who has lost his license to protect following the events of The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Samuel L. Jackson is Darius Kincaid, the hitman Bryce was hired to protect in the earlier film, and needs some saving at the outset of this one after being kidnapped by Italian mafia goons.
Both stars were a lot of fun in the first movie, livening up a familiar odd couple road comedy with some committed turns. In Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife, meanwhile, Reynolds’ pathetic sadsack routine grows old fast, and Jackson is never given a chance to do much of anything.
Instead, Salma Hayek, who featured in a minor role in the first film, gets an extended chance to shine here as the titular wife and walks away with the movie. Her character, who longs to have a family, is the only one who is given any depth in this sequel; Hayek’s intense performance, which frequently explodes into onscreen violence, both breathes comedic life into the film while adding a dramatic undercurrent.
What constitutes a story in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, meanwhile, sucks any fleeting joy right out of the equation. It involves a Greek tycoon played by Antonio Banderas, who is threatening to destroy the European power grid with a deep sea drilling device in retaliation for EU sanctions on Greece, and a Boston Interpol agent, played by Frank Grillo, on his trail.
Through reasons of plot contrivance, Grillo’s Interpol agent arranges to have the bodyguard, the hitman, and his wife track down the Greek tycoon, who also happens to be the former lover of Hayek’s character. This leads to a familiar road movie territory through some scenic Italian locations, with our trio of leads bickering at each along the way.
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is passable as disposable entertainment, but fails to match the previous film’s sense of charm as it pushes things into over-the-top cartoon territory; even a first-rate Florence sequence can’t match a similar scene set in Amsterdam in the original. While Hayek steals the movie with an impassioned and emphatic performance, there’s only so much she can do to keep things buoyant in the midst of all the chaos.
Despite the derivative nature of the screenplay, director Patrick Hughes really knows how to put together an action movie. He keeps Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife peppered with enough shootouts and chase scenes to keep our attention and, perhaps more importantly, distract us from the nonsensical narrative.
An extended chase through the streets of Florence, so engaging that the filmmakers play it out through two different scenarios, serves as Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’s highlight; a by-the-numbers finale aboard a yacht, meanwhile, is entirely underwhelming and ends things with a whimper.
Here’s hoping for better things from the director next time around; he’s not yet matched his excellent 2010 debut Red Hill with derivative Hollywood actioners including The Expendables 3 and these two Hitman’s Bodyguard movies.
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’s biggest sin: Morgan Freeman, who could have lent this movie the sense of gravitas it is sorely lacking, is wasted in a one-note role with a twist we see coming a mile away.