The Hitman’s Bodyguard put me in mind of Paul Feig’s Spy. That was a film with unimaginative, workmanlike action, which was nevertheless saved by the always hilarious Melissa McCarthy. The Hitman’s Bodyguard has a similar thing going, except instead of McCarthy, we get Ryan Reynolds. Smarmy, perpetually sarcastic, pathologically insincere Ryan Reynolds.
As you might have guessed, I don’t much like Ryan Reynolds. Here he plays Michael Bryce, a self-styled “Triple-A Executive Protection Agent”. So, a bodyguard. In the film’s first scenes we see bodyguard Bryce fail to Executively Protect a client. We see, in slow motion, his expression change as he realises it’s all gone wrong. Except this is Ryan Reynolds – smarmy, perpetually sarcastic, pathologically insincere – and part of me wondered if Bryce was in fact the hitman of the title. See, even Reynolds “dismayed” face looks so smug and self-satisfied that I was left in some confusion as to whether Bryce failed to prevent his client’s death, or orchestrated it.
Luckily, the plot had my back. Turns out he failed to prevent his client’s death, and that’s just how his face looks. Fast forward two years, and Bryce is having to make do protecting a dishevelled Richard E. Grant. Until, that is, he gets a call from his ex-wife and Interpol agent Amelia (Elodie Yung) asking for his help in Executively Protecting notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson).
Kincaid (who is the hitman of the title) is the key witness in the trial of Belarusian despot Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman, doing a Soviet accent that I swear kept slipping into Scottish). Bryce needs to escort Kincaid from Coventry (why Coventry?) to The Hague before The Deadline, with Dukhovich’s men hell-bent on silencing the assassin. Problem is, Kincaid doesn’t want escorting, while Bryce and his clients have run afoul of the hitman 28 times in the past. They’re a regular odd couple.
Cue clichéd action-comedy.
The action, as I said, is bog-standard, mid-shelf stuff, with no attempt at inventiveness or style. There are shootouts, punch-ups, car chases, the odd explosion, and it’s all just so much noise. Coming a week after the stylishly brutal Atomic Blonde, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is downright pedestrian (and there’s certainly nothing to rival Blonde’s barnstorming stairwell fight).
So the action in this action-comedy is nothing to write home about. What about the comedy? It’s…well, it has Ryan Reynolds in it. Make of that what you will. As for the rest of the cast, Jackson phones it in, diluting his usual screen persona into a weak and watery imitation of himself. Yung, despite being authoritative, capable, and resourceful, has little do but get annoyed by Ryan Reynolds (and, in that sense, acts as an audience surrogate). Salma Hayek plays Kincaid’s wife, and, bloody hell, she has a mouth like a sailor on her. She gives Jackson a run for his money.
At just shy of two hours, The Hitman’s Bodyguard does outstay its welcome (though, for those of us who just don’t like Ryan Reynolds, it outstays its welcome has soon as Ryan Reynolds’ smarmy, perpetually sarcastic, pathologically insincere face appears on screen). It’s interesting to note that some of the year’s longest films (Toni Erdmann, The Handmaiden, War for the Planet of the Apes) have been among the year’s best; while shorter films like this, Atomic Blonde, and Valerian have seemed overlong.
I suppose a good film is a good film, no matter how long it is. And a bad film is a bad film, even if it’s just under two hours long. And especially if it has Ryan Reynolds in it.