The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) Review

Ryan Reynolds Samuel L Jackson The Hitman's Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)
Director: Patrick Hughes
Screenwriter: Tom O’Connor
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman, Richard E. Grant, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung

Director Patrick Hughes has assembled one of the most respectable and star-studded casts in the action genre this year, with Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds and Gary Oldman each lending their names to The Hitman’s Bodyguard, this Summer’s answer to the buddy comedy mayhem and hilarity that Shane Black so masterfully presented in 2016’s The Nice Guys. Yet even with such talented performers to centre upon, the movie Hughes has constructed falls flat courtesy of bog-standard action sequences, underwhelming special effects and often woeful dialogue exchanges that seem to be based around the idea of giving Samuel L. Jackson the opportunity to yell “mother f-er”. This could have been so much more…

Given Hughes’ directorial history at the helm of big budget action movie The Expendables 3, it comes as somewhat of a surprise to discover that this action-comedy is lacking in notable, comedic and/or creative action sequences. To criticise a typical summer action movie for lacking in creative action is one thing we’ve each become all-too-well accustomed to, but for it to be lacking in meaningful action is another case entirely, and The Hitman’s Bodyguard certainly falls into both categories, making for an astoundingly bland film in terms of its visual repertoire. As is the case with many pictures of its ilk, the cinematography is nothing beyond that of the term “technically sound”, with the blocking of scenes having flourishes of creativity that seem to be instantly wiped from memory by repeated bland story, action, or cinematographic moments, with the picture suffering from the same more-than-perfect colourisation that has plagued many a studio film for the past 6 or 7 years. Furthermore, it seems Hughes and the studio were more concerned with earning tax rebates in several European countries by filming large portions of the film there than they were about telling an effective story, with the central plot of a bodyguard (Reynolds) having to escort an imprisoned hitman (Jackson) from Manchester, England to The Hague, the Netherlands, seeming an exploitative choice more than a creative one, with none of the movie’s three key locales – Manchester, Coventry and The Hague – having any impact or meaning regarding the story, and each offering even less to the action set-pieces or all-round visual appeal of the movie. The Hitman’s Bodyguard could have been set anywhere and we would never have even noticed the difference.

Despite this hindrance, the movie does raise a few laughs, and this is due to the unique skill sets of its leading duo and a fantastic cameo by Salma Hayek. It seems that The Hitman’s Bodyguard was, on paper, a return to the same safe and almost boring straight man comedy role that has filled much of Ryan Reynolds’ recent career (excluding Deadpool of course – the exception that proves the rule), yet his co-star Samuel L. Jackson seemed to do enough to bring elements of something much more out of Reynolds and, in doing so, created a chemistry between the characters that resulted in perhaps the only piece of investment that the movie could muster – even Gary Oldman, who was as close to phoning in his performance as it gets for him, couldn’t save an underdeveloped villain from being nothing more than this short note of disappointment in this review. Given that much of the movie was spent with Reynolds and Jackson – their co-stars were nothing more than simple archetypes fitted in to the story to suit the leads’ progression – their on-screen rivalry turned brotherhood at least ensured that The Hitman’s Bodyguard wouldn’t fall to The Mummy (2017) levels of bad action-comedy, though much of this appraisal must be reserved for Jackson who seemed to be in a completely different movie to everyone else in terms of the quality of his work.

Salma Hayek’s well-played role as Samuel L. Jackson’s wife – herself an imprisoned criminal – was too short lived, but the performance brought with it more laughs per minute than any of the other characters in the film courtesy of profanity laced tirades against correctional officers that were juxtaposed by sweet, romantic flashback scenes that painted the picture of how the character came to be with her hitman husband. Somewhat disappointingly, she was used sparingly at best, with the majority of her work occurring inside a small cell with a historically significant piece of Dutch architecture CG’d into the window frame – it was quite transparent that the filmmakers’ time with the actress was limited. The convenience of her character’s location relative to the eventual destination of the movie’s central duo seemed to be almost poking fun at this oh-so-typical convention most action movies seem to include, yet it wasn’t played upon at all in the film’s third act, instead being tagged into a post-narrative scene, thus removing the potential of its inclusion being self-conscious fun-poking and instead acting as an illustration of how slapdash the finished screenplay was; one which seemed fixated on setting up story elements it would rarely appropriately conclude – an aspect of the writing that was only compounded by the film’s woeful and at times patronising exchanges of dialogue.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is, then, a not-so-good action genre addition, with its lacklustre screenplay and lack of creativity behind the camera seeming to create too big of a mole hill for the starring duo (and Hayek) to overcome, despite a pretty good try. This is one of those films you’ll likely forget you’ve seen within the space of a week or two, and while it may pass the time easily enough, it certainly isn’t worth the price of admission at your local theatre/cinema.

8/24