The buddy cop comedy was huge back in the day, but it’s been a while since the formula has seen any sort of resurgence. Trade in the cops for a hitman and a bodyguard and you have “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, an action epic that teams two of today’s most celebrated quirky comedic action stars and puts them together for almost two hours of unabashed action and hilarity. While not quite a stunning as I personally had hoped, and a little lacking in the comedy department especially from its two stars, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is still a fun ride that takes itself just seriously enough to earn some respect.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson as executive protection agents Michael Bryce and hitman Darius Kincaid respectively. When Kincaid is offered freedom for his wife Sonia, played by Salma Hayek, in exchange for testifying against murderous dictator Vladislav Dukhovich, played by Gary Oldman, he becomes the target of Dukhovich’s followers leading Bryce to be recruited by his ex girlfriend and Interpol agent Amelia Roussel, played by Elodie Yung, to get Kincaid to the court in time to testify. As the mismatched men banter, fight, and even try to kill each other on their way to their destination they form a bond and learn about each other’s lives and personalities culminating in revelations and exciting chases and shootouts that prove the two men have more in common then they may be willing to admit.
Lets start with the stars shall we, seeing as the leading men are really the centerpieces for this entire action adventure. Supposedly Reynolds and Jackson has wanted to work together for a LONG time, leading to this teamup that allows each actor to put their best foot forward. Reynolds presents his trademark wit and sass while Jackson brings his sharp tongue and attitude to the table which makes for not only an interesting contrast between two of today’s biggest “smart-ass” actors, but creates great chemistry between the characters as well with one being a professional bodyguard who sees any death at his hands as necessary for his clients safety rather than as murder with the other being a professional hitman out to do what he does best without mercy or remorse. Reynolds and Jackson play off each other well, creating some amazingly funny moments and a forming an interesting and relatable bond between the odd couple that plays well on screen.
Other actors have show stealing moments as well, particularly Selma Hayek’s Sonia Kincaid who may only have a few scenes to shine in the film but she takes full advantage of every one throwing creative insults and attitude in both English and Spanish. While they only appear onscreen together twice, once in a flashback and again at the end of the film, Hayek and Jackson, who plays her husband, do share some great dialogue with each other and manage to present a deep bond despite spending most of the film apart. There’s an understanding of this romance that noone else could ever seem to grasp and that makes for a believable motivation for Kincaid as he decides to testify not for his benefit, but for his wife’s.
On the other end is Gary Oldman as the evil Vladishlav Dukhovich who could have easily been a throwaway villain, considering his men do more of the fighting than he himself does really. Oldman however, in all his greatness, brings out the best and worst in this vile man. Oldman creates a villain we can believe is evil and treacherous without having to think too much about it. He can hold his own, he’s cunning, he’s got an unsettling attitude and calm, and he has a superiority complex that plays big in the film’s finale. He may not be a complex or mysterious character, but Oldman’s Dukhivich is just memorable enough. He has a style all his own with a few clichés sprinkled in for spice and in the hands of any other actor it may have been a forgettable role.
When you get down too it though this is a film about two mismatched men on the run and while it’s supposed to be funny and action packed, it just seems a bit hollow in that regard particularly in the laughs department. Maybe it’s because we’ve already seen to much from Reynolds and Jackson, but “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” just doesn’t seem like their best work, individually or as a team. They have great one-liners and creative zingers to be sure, but for a pair of VERY funny men there just seems to be a lack of substance in their puns and insults. Sometimes you can tell its because they are cliché. Other times there’s clearly some forced comedy involved. This is not to say the pair are not funny, it just could have been A LOT funnier. The duo really are hilarious, I just felt like there could have been more. Most of the best jokes were spoiled in the trailers for the film leaving little to the imagination when the actual story unfolds.
With the action however, the film hits all the right notes with great set pieces, epic chase scenes, and creative and well choreographed fight sequences that show off the skills and stamina of both leading men quite well. Many of these fight scenes are also quite believable and, honestly, tend to be more funny and amusing at times than the banter between the two leads. This is where the film really shines to be honest is with its action despite all the potential that the Reynolds-Jackson pairing had coming into the film. Ironically the best action occurs when the two men are separated, one on foot and one in a car, which creates perfectly contrasting scenes that occur at the exact same time in a segment of the film that’s pretty much 15 minutes of pure non-stop action.
I’m in a minority among reviewers in believing “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” actually doesn’t benefit as much from the chemistry of its two leading men as it could have while the action, which in all honestly is full of delightful clichés, was the most enjoyable aspect of the film. It’s certainly not the worst action film of 2017, but it’s not the best either. There’s some heart missing from the overall product that leaves something to be desired in the comedy department and its clear these two men can’t just get by “doing what they do” anymore. But, the film does provide some great character building, some pretty committed and convincing acting on all sides, and well-executed action that makes “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” an overall enjoyable late-summer moviegoing experience. There’s just not enough here to bring it to the level we all expected. There was so much more potential than the product we got and while “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” isn’t necessarily forgettable, I only fear that in a few years we may be looking back on it as an example of what could have been at least when it comes to its two stars who, otherwise, would have been a match made in comedy heaven.