Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in a buddy action comedy? That concept would be hard to mess up.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is one hard-working movie.
You could get whiplash in the first 15 minutes, as the story careens around Europe, setting up a complicated plot involving a Belarusian dictator (Gary Oldman), the International Criminal Court and how assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) somehow fits into it all.
Oh, and Darius’ wife (Salma Hayek) is in a Dutch prison for some reason. And bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is enlisted by his ex-girlfriend (Elodie Yung) to escort Darius to The Hague, while pretty much everyone is trying to kill them. Also, there’s a mole at Interpol who keeps sabotaging their efforts.
I think that’s everything. It doesn’t matter much, since the only reason to watch “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is to enjoy the two stars. Director Patrick Hughes also made “The Expendables 3,” so macho banter is in his skill set. So is bloody, bone-crunching action, which he at least stages cleverly. The narrow streets and canals of Amsterdam make a pretty good place for a boat/motorcycle/car chase.
When Hughes lets his leads (and his audience) breathe a little, there’s some fun to be had. Reynolds subverted his slick pretty-boy image in “Deadpool,” and here he takes it to comedic extremes, playing Michael as a “AAA rated” perfectionist whose finesse is constantly thwarted by his protectee’s improvisations. Darius is a tailor-made Jackson character, so he’s foul-mouthed and funny, if not the least bit original.
Reynolds and Jackson seem to be improvising in many of their scenes, which is when the film becomes entertaining. They take turns being “crazy guy” and “straight man,” while somehow staying in character. Hughes is going for a “Midnight Run”-style caper, and in these moments, he nearly succeeds.
Hughes and writer Tom O’Connor never tone down their summer-blockbuster aspirations, choosing to emulate Michael Bay on probably half the budget. The story makes no sense, the supporting characters are poorly written, every twist is either absurd or obvious. Despite the great decision to cast Ryan and Jackson, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is just speed and noise, signifying nothing.
Read more of freelancer Loey Lockerby’s reviews at suchacritic.com.
‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout.