The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

Never let him out of your sight. Never let your guard down. Never fall in love.

Living up to its genius advertising campaign, which spoofs the Whitney Houston/ Kevin Costner starring hit from 1992, The Bodyguard, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is without a doubt the year’s most outrageous action-comedy. A fast paced actioner that delivers on its hard-R rating, this latest odd-couple outing plays to the strengths of its scenery-chewing stars, Ryan Reynolds (in motormouth mode), clearly ready for next year’s Deadpool 2, and the ultra-cool Samuel L. Jackson, The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996), who blurts out his favorite four-letter swear word like it’s going out of style. Toying with the idea of the ‘bodyguard’ romance while flipping the buddy flick formula on its head, The Hitman’s Bodyguard makes for an irreverently fun ride; it’s the kind of movie that my younger self would’ve snuck into a cinema to see, ecstatic that it turned out to be everything I’d imagined, minus the nudity.

‘Do I look like a give a fu-k?’

The premise is dead simple. Samuel L. Jackson plays Darius Kincaid, an incarcerated high-end hitman who promises Interpol that he’ll testify against a bloodthirsty Belarusian tyrant named Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) in the International Criminal Court, on the proviso that they pardon his beloved yet feisty wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), who’s also behind bars. There’s just one snag: they have a mere 24 hours to transport Kincaid from the North of England to The Hague (where he’s scheduled to give his testimony), knowing full well that Vladislav has an army of expendable mercs who are out to stop the cocky key witness from making it to Holland alive. Hasn’t the Criminal Court ever heard of Skype? Anyhow, things get off to a rocky start when the prison convoy transporting Kincaid are ambushed, Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel (Élodie Yung) suspecting someone on the inside of leaking information, this mole most likely working for Dukhovich. After narrowly escaping the attack, Amelia decides that her best option is to take the self-assured Kincaid to a safe house, where she calls the only person she knows she can wholly trust: her burnt-out ex-boyfriend and former Triple-A rated bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds).

As it turns out, Bryce used to be a leading executive protection agent until he botched a high-profile job, losing everything as a result. Bitter and resentful, the ex-hotshot reluctantly agrees to escort Kincaid if Amelia helps him get his old gig back. This, however, proves easier said than done, as Kincaid and Bryce are old rivals with a rocky past. You see, it’s Bryce’s job to keep his clients alive, no matter how crooked or corrupt they may be, while Kincaid (with several hundred hits under his belt) has made a pretty lucrative career out of wiping them out — the former having almost killed the latter about 28 times over the course of their respective professions. Hence, it’s safe to say that Bryce has no intention of risking his own life to save that of Kincaid. Now, the reckless hitman and his unenthusiastic bodyguard must put their differences aside, the couple racing against the clock, as well as an army of deadly henchman, in order to make it to The Hague on time and in one piece. Bickering, philosophizing and singing along the way, the pair forges an awkward bromance that eventually grows into a begrudging sorta respect.

Protecting your asset can be messy.

Taking its cues from similar themed flicks, where a couple of frenemies are forced to sideline their grudges for the sake of a common goal — think 48 Hrs. (1982) or last year’s The Nice Guys — the script by Tom O’Connor, Fire with Fire (2012), is riotous and rapid, the film playing with the distinct persona’s of its bankable stars. For instance, Bryce, at one point, states that Kincaid has ‘single-handedly ruined the word motherfucker,’ the sole expletive that has become synonymous with the 68-year-old’s entire career. We later see this ‘bad motherfucker’ sing and clap along with a bus full of nuns, this scene, once again, grating against his hard-ass image. Jackson actually does a lot of singing in this movie, a melody that he improvised — which Reynolds counters by blurting out a piercing version of Ace of Base’s ‘I Saw the Sign’ — morphing into a track titled ‘Nobody Gets Out Alive,’ the jingle eventually recorded properly and can be heard in the flick’s closing credits.

Just on music, The Hitman’s Bodyguard features a winning collection of ’80s-’90s songs, including Spiderbait’s ‘Black Betty,’ Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ and Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello,’ the latter playing in one of the flick’s best bits, a flashback illustrating how Kincaid met his wife Sonia when she was a waitress at a bar in Mexico, the hitman swooning over her badassery as she beats up a number of groping customers in an ultra-violent cantina brawl. Less successful are O’Connor’s attempts at exploring murder, revenge and morality, with Kincaid and Bryce constantly at odds about who has chosen the more righteous path, the jolly hitman who kills sleazeballs or the guy who protects ‘em. Either way, these elements are never fully unpacked.

Action Jackson!

Directed by Patrick Hughes, who’s best known for helming Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables 3 (2014), The Hitman’s Bodyguard shines brightest when it’s in complete combat mode, its well-choreographed action set pieces and cartoony chaos both blood-soaked and inventive. Sure, some of the mayhem takes place in and around London and Amsterdam, cities recently affected by terrorist attacks, but we’re not supposed to take any of this seriously. How can we? Especially when people jump off building rooftops and walk away without so much as a scratch, or fly through car windshields relatively unscathed. That said, the highlight is a frenzied chase that’s very easy to follow, this top-notch sequence trailing Reynolds (or a helmeted stuntman) as he rides a motorcycle through a series of narrow roads, pursuing a bunch of SUVs that are going after Jackson, who’s racing through the Amsterdam canals on a boat. Some of the hand-to-hand combat is a bit choppier — chiefly a scrape that starts in a garage and finishes in a hardware store — but, for the most part, things are fairly straightforward. Even the CGI, which, at times, looks distractingly dodgy, adds to the movie’s entire B-grade vibe.

Jackson and Reynolds aren’t the only ones who are talking fast and funny, the leading men joined by a crazy cast of support players who are thankfully just as over-the-top. Salma Hayek, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), owns her role as Kincaid’s firecracker spouse Sonia (who he’d do anything for), the foulmouthed babe sharing oodles of chemistry with her smitten’ co-star — it’s just a shame that Hayek spends the majority of her screen-time locked-up in a Dutch jail, where she intimidates her tubby cellmate. Gary Oldman, Léon: The Professional (1994), is menacing as Vladislav Dukhovich, a ruthless dictator who’s put on trial for heinous crimes against humanity, Oldman playing a variation of characters he’s portrayed in the past — a European terrorist with a disfigured face. French actress Élodie Yung, best known for her role as Elektra in Marvel/ Netflix’s Daredevil, is perfect as Amelia Roussel, Bryce’s ex flame and the Interpol agent whom he blames for his whole downward spiral — a flashback detailing their first encounter at a funeral that Interpol managed to screw up is another hilarious treat. Lastly, Richard E. Grant, Logan (2017), has a small part as Seifert, a drug-addicted white-collar schmuck who Bryce is chauffeuring after his fall from grace, the coked-up target complaining that Bryce’s economy car ‘smells like ass.’

‘Who you calling old man?’

With an enormously high body count, a ton of practical stunts and an absurd amount of F-bombs, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an amusing throwback to the very definition of an old-school action movie. Offering enough giddy goofiness to compensate for a few of its more by-the-numbers elements, this Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson starrer is sure to hit its target demographic squarely in the funny bone. So, join in on the road trip sing-along, I know you want to: ‘Bevilo tutto, bevilo tutto, bevilo, bevilo, bevilo tutto!’

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia