The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is a loud, chaotic, and brash flick. It’s fast-paced, frantic, and, I’ll say it again, loud. This comes as no surprise given that its 2017 predecessor, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, was a fun, hyper-violent action romp that reveled in its own absurdity. A spoof of the international espionage genre, The Hitman’s Bodyguard was also one of the few profitable original flicks from the past few years — it made $176 million against a production budget of $69 million. Sure, it took advantage of teaming Ryan Reynolds, hot off Deadpool fame, with the King of Cool, Samuel L. Jackson, but it was an enjoyable late-August hit, nonetheless. Its biggest surprise, however, came from Salma Hayek. She portrayed the hitman’s foul-mouthed yet devoted wife, Sonia, who stole the few scenes she was in. So naturally, the sequel puts more of an emphasis on Hayek’s unstable character, with returning director Patrick Hughes giving Sonia a larger role in this frantic follow-up.
The awkwardly titled The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard picks up several years after the events of the first film, where we learn that Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) has lost his AAA status as a bodyguard following his last misadventure with hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), whom he took a bullet for. Since then, Michael’s been having a recurring nightmare where Darius shows up at some sort of bodyguard awards ceremony and mocks him. Michael’s therapist (Rebecca Front), however, orders him to go on a sabbatical, away from the business of bullets, so he heads to the Italian island of Capri for some much-needed R&R.
While relaxing on the isle — we see him reading Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret — Michael’s peace is shattered when Darius’ sociopathic wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) comes bursting onto the scene, guns blazing. She insists he helps her locate her husband, who’s been taken by mobsters. While reluctant to join her on the rescue mission (she won’t take ‘no’ for an answer), Michael goes along with the pushy Sonia but plans to stay on his pacifistic, non-violent path, heeding the advice from his therapist. After tracking Darius down, the three are caught by Interpol agent Bobby O’Neill (Frank Grillo), who recruits the bickering trio to find the source of a dangerous new threat. The assignment leads them to a mad Greek terrorist named Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas), who plans on severely crippling the European Union after they threaten to impose more economic sanctions on Greece. Plot twist: Aristotle also happens to be one of Sonia’s ex-lovers.
This time around, though, Michael Bryce is a bit of a broken man, having to deal with the psychological damage of Darius’ bullying, along with losing his confidence after his bodyguarding license is revoked. We also delve deeper into Bryce’s past, chiefly with a ridiculous childhood trauma triggered by the sight of gelato. This gives star Reynolds — who thrives in these kinds of satirical action-thrillers — the opportunity to show a softer side of his character, an ex-action-man on a quest to find some sort of internal peace. Granted, returning scribe Tom O’Connor — who co-wrote the screenplay with Brandon and Phillip Murphy — leans too heavily into dated action film attitudes from the eighties, regressing to the old ‘real men don’t show emotion’ school of thought, making Michael’s frailty the butt of every joke.
Sam Jackson’s Darius has new issues to deal with, too, the hitman trying to get around the fact that he can’t get his wife pregnant, despite the fact that they’re ‘doing it’ whenever and wherever they can. Sonia wants to start a family, but Darius is shooting blanks. Speaking of Salma Hayek’s Sonia, she’s literally cranked up to eleven for the entire movie, swearing, yelling (sometimes even in Spanish), and screaming into the camera, ranting and raving about all sorts of profane subject matter, including her sex life; Hayek’s a tad too aggressive and overbearing at times, so her exaggerated performance mightn’t be for everyone.
While it’s the screwball chemistry between our three leads that really makes this shoot-‘em-up actioner work, they’re aided by an entertaining support cast who are clearly having just as good a time. Antonio Banderas almost steals the entire movie as Aristotle, a flamboyantly dressed Bond-type baddie whose evil plan is just as bonkers as his wardrobe. Apart from chewing the scenery, it’s a treat to see Banderas and Hayek reunited on screen once again, twenty-five years after they starred together in Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado. Fortunately, their chemistry is still as sizzling as it was back in 1995.
Morgan Freeman, The Shawshank Redemption (1994), shows up as a key figure from Michael’s past, while Tom Hopper, The Umbrella Academy (2019-), is super amusing as an award-winning bodyguard known simply as Magnusson, whom Michael looks up to. Richard E. Grant, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), also appears briefly to reprise his role as Bryce’s old associate, drug-addicted corporate executive Mr. Seifert. It’s only Frank Grillo, Boss Level (2021), who’s kinda waisted as an exhausted Interpol agent desperately wanting to be re-assigned to his home city of Boston and complains about his Scottish assistant (Alice McMillan), whom he can’t understand.
Australian filmmaker Patrick Hughes keeps the anarchic action and stunts just as loaded as the language, our ‘heroes’ hopping around Europe and shooting everything that comes in their path, keeping the body count gleefully sky high. The cinematography by Terry Stacey, Den of Thieves (2018), is nice and polished (there’s a lot of picturesque European scenery), while the editing by Michael J. Duthie, Stargate (1994), and Jack Hutchings, Berlin Syndrome (2017), is a smidge too frantic, making the action sometimes hard to follow. With that said, the ‘big sequences’ are heavily augmented by blatant VFX and digital blood, which may irk some viewers. There are wild car chases and a few double-crosses, a spot of torture and an exploding luxury yacht — and look, it’s all ridiculously over-the-top but should please those who enjoyed the original flick.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard isn’t going to win over any new fans — it’s simply more of the same just with a bigger budget (so basically more noise from our reliable stars and louder explosions). And while I could potentially sit through a third Hitman’s Bodyguard, the movie’s ridiculous closing gag (which doesn’t make any sense) has me concerned for the future of this franchise if were to continue.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Dan Cachia (Mr. Movie)