Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is an elite bodyguard, down on his luck and catering to low-rent clients after an incident on a high-profile job sent his career into a tailspin. Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is an incarcerated contract killer who, in exchange for his wife’s freedom, agrees to testify in The Hague against infamous war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). As fate would have it, Kincaid is being transported from England by Bryce’s ex-girlfriend, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), whom he blames for his professional nosedive. When the Interpol convoy is ambushed, and suspecting an inside job, Roussel calls on Bryce to help get Kincaid to The Hague intact.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an action-comedy in the begrudging friendship, buddy-movie tradition of Midnight Run or Lethal Weapon. There are no surprises to be had, and they never let reality get in the way of a good explosion or car chase, but predictability and silliness are not necessarily a hindrance to enjoyment in a movie such as this.
To enjoy The Hitman’s Bodyguard we must accept that logic might not be our friend. Accept the plot holes and don’t think too much about it. For example, the movie starts off at the Interpol headquarters in Manchester, England, as Kincaid prepares for transportation to the trial. Despite constantly emphasizing that time is of the essence, Interpol apparently forgets there is an international airport in Manchester. So they opt instead, for a scenic drive through the English Midlands… where they, obviously, get attacked.
There are no complaints with the action scenes themselves though; they are all fast-paced crowd pleasers. The big explosions, gunfights and car chases do their job very well, and there’s a chase around the cramped streets and canals of Amsterdam that proves to be especially enjoyable.
Although The Hitman’s Bodyguard is entertaining, it still feels like it should be a bit better than it is. It ought to be huge fun in the vein of a film like Spy, but the action / comedy balance is not quite calibrated correctly. The violence is too strong at times, and conversely, the comedy isn’t strong enough. We get John Wick style fights with bullets to the head of downed adversaries, backed with one liners that don’t crackle. Quite often the places where gags or smart jokes should fit, end up ringing with empty profanity. Additionally, some of the subject matter feels out of place for a comedy. A war crimes trial and terror bomb incident feel particularly dark in the context of the wacky hijinks immediately preceding them.
Still, there is enjoyment to be had in Reynolds’ sardonic delivery and Jackson’s trademark ‘loud angry man’. It’s the traditional ‘opposites attract’ approach, with Bryce the cool headed professional and Kincaid the impulsive assassin with a heart of gold. Their charisma carries the movie through the rough patches and is probably why The Hitman’s Bodyguard doesn’t outstay its welcome, despite a 2-hour run time.
Of the rest of the cast, Salma Hayek gives a hilariously OTT performance as Kincaid’s wife, Sonia, using yoga and aggressive swearing to steal every scene. Yung is also very good; familiar to most as Electra in Daredevil, she does well with the tough yet charming Amelia. The only disappointing thing is that even as an established, hard-as-nails Interpol agent, she still needs saving by Bryce.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard feels a bit like two films crammed into one. Concentrating on either the comedy or the action might well have been the way to go, but both combined was a bridge too far. So while it’s entertaining enough when watching it, it’s long term value is less apparent.