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Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is directed by Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3, Red Hill) and stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson and Salma Hayek. It follows the exploits of Michael Bryce (Reynolds), a disgraced bodyguard to the criminal elite who is tasked with transporting a foul-mouthed hitman, Darius Kincaid to the Hague to testify at a war criminal’s trial.

This film is trying to resurrect the long dead genre of the buddy film, which was very popular in the 80’s and 90’s. The most well known movies in this genre are the Lethal Weapon films, Midnight Run and 48 hours. This type of film died out because it became very clear that they were all the same. All of them featured two male leads, one tough and masculine, the other sensitive and domesticated. They start the film at odds, and end as allies. There is always a scene where they leap together from the top of a building and survive.

I suppose Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid began the trend but Lethal Weapon 4 unceremoniously ended it. I was never much of a fan of these films, but I have to admit that the idea of making more of these films is a good one. 80’s nostalgia is at its peak and people are clamouring to see different types of films. Superhero fatigue builds more every year and more and more of these movies seem desperate to not appear like superhero films (i.e Logan). However, if the buddy movie is going to make a resurgence, they have to be better than The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

This film takes a lot from Midnight Run. Both feature a by-the-book professional escorting a unconventional fugitive to a court-mandated location under a time pressure. However, while that film features the best comedic performance of Robert De Niro’s career, this film just seems to take it easy. Ryan Reynolds plays Ryan Reynolds, a sarcastic underachiever, Gary Oldman (as the Belarus villain) is recycling his role from Air Force One, while Samuel L Jackson plays another boggle-eyed sweary criminal. Jackson escapes with some semblance of dignity because at least he injects proceedings with an energy that is lacking everywhere else.

There is no element of surprise in the performances or the narrative. The only slightly unpredictable element is Salma Hayek as Jackson’s wife. Hayek is a versatile actress and isn’t as typecast as the other three leads. She may be hideously annoying and unpleasant but at least you couldn’t predict Hayek’s role before you even walked into the cinema. Elodie Yung on the other hand, who plays Reynolds Interpol agent ex-girlfriend is so bland and forgettable that it almost makes you forget that they probably wanted Gal Gadot to play the role instead.

The action in this film is as uninspired as the casting choices. The film ticks all the boxes of action scene cliches. Car chase through city streets? Check. Baddies in cars and motorbikes. Check. A foot chase on rooftops. Check. A bar fight. Check. I could go on at length, even down to the ways in which the action sequences play out. It’s all so predictable. There are a couple of interesting sequences, particularly one in a hardware store which is creative enough to be mildly diverting.

The general filmmaking of this film is lacking too. Early on in the film, I was convinced that several shots were slightly out of focus, and not for any motivated reason. The pacing is terrible, and means that after a while I got extremely bored. It doesn’t help that the film is at least half and hour too long. There is too much action and none of it feels particularly essential to the plot. You could easily take out three action scenes from the first half and the film would be all the better for it.

Overall, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a failed attempt to reinvigorate the buddy movie genre. However, if Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys (two Shane Black productions, the master of the genre), couldn’t bring it back to the mainstream, then I don’t think anything will. Jackson has fun and the other actors are appealing to look at if nothing else. Hughes next project is a remake of the impeccable Indonesian action film The Raid. Off the back of this film, I won’t be buying a ticket.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is in cinemas nationwide now. Image source: ManlyMovie.net