Is it a clean getaway for this action comedy?
Written By: Nigel Asipa
Midnight Run, 48 Hours and Trains, Planes and Automobiles. All these are landmark buddy/road trip movies that were box office gold in the 80’s. They also happen to be director Patrick Hughes’ all-time favourites. With his 6th directorial endeavour (his last effort was Expendables 3), The Hitman’s Bodyguard, he wanted to capture the old school flavour of two contrasting characters that have one common goal, even if they’re not quite comfortable in each other’s company.
The screenplay was sitting around for a while which appeared in 2011’s blacklist of unproduced screenplays. Initially it was intended to be a drama but was rewrote as an action comedy within a fortnight, several weeks before production began. Tom O’Conner who wrote the script said Ryan Reynolds influenced much of it, both of whom had worked together over the course of a year. Once they realized who the hitman was going to be, the rewrite happened as a means of capitalizing on the chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds.
Audiences would want to see this for that reason, to see these likable stars bounce off one another, it should fare modestly well at the box office. The chemistry is certainly there, the problem however is the material they’re given to work with. For much of The Hitman’s Bodyguard I remained unfazed, it’s loud and fairly mean spirited.
Ryan Reynolds’ Michael Bryce was a top of the line security specialist whose last assignment sent him plummeting all the way down to become an executive protection agent, not an occupation he’s currently proud of. His Interpol agent ex-girlfriend Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung who is Elektra from the Marvel/Netflix television series) tasks him to deliver Sam Jackson’s Darius Kincaid to The Hague in order to testify against Gary Oldman’s Vladislav Dukhovich, a ruthless dictator and war criminal from Belarus who’s responsible for many heinous murders or as the movie’s media describes as ‘ethnic cleansing’. Kincaid has physical evidence that proves Dukhovich’s many crimes. When Dukhovich learns of this, he enlists many of his cronies to ensure Kincaid never makes it to The Hague which is in Amsterdam.
Kincaid accepts testifying against Dukhovich on the terms that his wife, Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) is exonerated (who just so also happens to be in Amsterdam?). No one is happy in each other’s space but for what consequences lie ahead if they don’t accept, proves dire not just for themselves but for many other innocents.
Kincaid is a live wire veteran hitman who is held in Bryce’s custody who’s the straight laced, do-gooder of the two. If you look at a poster of these two wielding guns, you get the idea that these two are pretty different from one another going by their body language, outfit and size of weaponry. The jokes thrown around often center on each other’s respective trades and throwing shade on their personal lives.
Much of the movie’s problem is it’s recyclable humour, Reynolds and Jackson seem almost playing semi fictionalized versions of themselves or at least their personas but the jokes get old pretty fast, especially the use of motherfucker which Bryce addresses to someone how Kincaid killed the use of it. The amount of swearing just speaks of lazy writing for me, coupled with the ridiculous set pieces which are admittedly well staged including a boat chase that takes places through the canals of Amsterdam.
A lot of the action movie elements are so tired and tried that it makes the whole affair pretty familiar, too familiar even. Some of it pretty sloppy, I even saw the stuntman on a couple of occasions which really took me out of it. Surprisingly it was Reynold’s body double. Sam’s choreography kind of shows how old he is. More so, some of Kincaid’s capabilities are just beyond believable.
The music choices are pretty on the nose, including a flashback sequence to how Sonia and Darius first met using Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’. The flashbacks aren’t even necessary much of the time. What’s worse is that the movie is longer because of them. The whole thing could’ve been trimmed down by about 15 to 20 minutes.
The flashbacks also hurts the movie’s tone, they feel like they belong elsewhere. Also in a scene that introduces Dukhovich, it’s pretty dark which probably would’ve fit with the movie’s original idea to be a drama. Oldman is the moustache twirling villain we remember from his heyday in the 90’s as the always cast bad guy. The casting is uninspired, Hayek shares a fiery, unhinged behavior like that of Penelope Cruz’s Maria Elena from Vicki Cristina Barcelona, the joke of her being an out of control, dangerous woman gets old pretty fast.
The Wilhelm scream pops up eventually and unnecessarily, given the movies surprisingly low budget, I shouldn’t be that surprised. It does pull off some editing tricks that Birdman pulled off and most recently, Atomic Blonde in delivering the one shot take sensation in which Bryce is being chased by one of Dukhovich’s men to a tool shop.
Hardly anyone is likable however, Bryce surprisingly one of them. He’s pretty selfish and disregards civilian safety more often than not, including one scene where he moans about potentially having to save Kincaid from capture after abandoning him earlier. He’s sat down and around him is chaotic while many innocents duck, dive and try to escape from being shot at or run over. He rarely is kind to other people, he’s a childish hot head.
The audience I was with enjoyed it, and I wouldn’t wince at anyone telling me they liked it. It can be fun at times. Mostly it’s a run of the mill, typical late summer action comedy that tries to honour the buddy comedies of yesteryear with unremarkable effect.
Written By: Rick Masters
I give The Hitmans Bodyguard a more glowing review than Nigels. You can hear my thoughts HERE