Patrick Hughes’ The Hitman’s Bodyguard is, in its simplest form, everything you’d expect from an August release. What does that mean? Well, you can count on an asinine story, distracting action, and wafer-thin plot devices that shouldn’t – in ANY world – be met with positive outcomes. Tom O’Connor’s script is a two-hour excuse to send Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson on a violent road trip, plus a few extra scenes where Salma Hayek screams bilingual insults like a Barrio banshee. That’s about it. Unnecessarily overlong like so many films before, but there’s a reason why intentions are so simple – because, against all odds, Hughes succeeds where others have failed. Don’t ask me how (but I’ll tell ya anyway).
It all starts with Belarusian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Interpol wants to put this murderous tyrant away for good, but their trial witnesses keep getting murdered. With no other options, they offer incarcerated assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) a plea bargain for his also-incarcerated wife (Sonia, played by Salma Hayek) if he testifies. Kincaid holds some informational A-bomb, and given the scenario, he agrees. Agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) leads Kincaid’s escort detail to The Hague, but they’re ambushed almost immediately. The two barely escape to a nearby safehouse. Interpol has a leak, and no one can be trusted. This forces Roussel to call in the only person she can trust – her ex-husband, disgraced security contractor Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds). Kincaid’s new handler from London to The Hague.
Thinking back, that’s probably more context than you need. Sorry! The Hitman’s Bodyguard is really just a slapstick vessel for Samuel L. Jackson’s masterful delivery of “m#th&rf$ck*r!” Every single line of dialogue sees Jackson finesse an “M.F.” at the beginning, end – hell, even in the middle of sentences! Has there ever been a better pronunciation of such profanity? Each cuss like a child who’s just discovered their favorite new word, exploring the vast meaning held in such a taboo collection of letters. We’re talking South Park: The Movie levels of R-rated no-nos, mouthed by the Picasso of verbal dirtiness. Jackson’s emphatic potty mouth is our only source of reliable entertainment in these trying times – and I say we need it more than ever.
Nothing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard should be taken seriously. Does that deem stating? Gary Oldman plays an acid-washed dictator who orders hits like he’s swatting flies while standing international trial. Jackson takes a bullet to the calf early on, yet can be seen jumping off ledges and landing without reaction. Reynolds – I mean, the seat belt gag should have killed him. Hughes isn’t interested in mortal restrictions, instead evoking action-cartoon spectacles akin to McG blockbuster fare. Don’t scoff at the comparison. It’s all fun and no ego, playing into the ridiculous stunts and unflinching heroes standing in front of indulgent explosions like all cool actioners do.
Casting is key, and the pairing of Reynolds’ by-the-numbers perfectionist with Jackson’s run-and-gun psychopath makes for combative (also necessary) chemistry. Maybe it’s less Hughes’ exploitation of genre norms and more Jackson’s demeanor that makes stand-in-front-of-explosions snapshots so fun. It’s Sammy J, tatt’ed up and not giving a single f*ck about the flaming derbies falling behind him. Who ISN’T going to love that? Reynolds gets all neurotic and practical, only to have Jackson laugh like a maniac when some MacGruber-type folly occurs. “Well at least we have the criminal’s van,” Reynolds says. Cue a rogue bullet blowing up said van, and Jackson erupting with hearty enjoyment at Reynolds’ exasperated face. One master planner and the nudge who revels in every single step going wrong. A tango that Reynolds and Jackson mock so well.
Hughes is painting by numbers when it comes to Oldman’s Eastern European evilness, forced bonding between his leading duo, things of this nature. Take that for what you will. There’s no denying how ludicrous a The Hitman’s Bodyguard comic would be, let alone something cinematic. Thankfully, SOMEHOW, said foolishness ends up being the film’s most endearing quality. Salma Hayek stabbing jugulars with broken beer bottles in slow motion, vehicles exploding at random, humans falling from tremendous heights with little-to-no damage taken – all insane moments, and all totally enjoyable. Hayek’s bloody, bananas barroom brawl especially. Be steady, mi corazón.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a rung above syndicated equivalents you might find cycling through 10PM time slots on TNT or FXX. The kind of movie you put on as white noise, only to watch the whole thing without trying. As the word “m#th&rf$ck*r” loses meaning, you can’t help but appreciate a wholly predictable – yet unapologetically confident – action goof that’s far funnier than it should be. Thank Ryan Reynolds. Thank Samuel L. Jackson. Thank Selma Hayek. Three nutters who cheerily eviscerate all obstacles impeding their rail-shooter-like mission (Hayek via flashback). Without them, Patrick Hughes would have a much more mundane affair on his blood-covered hands. Instead, to quote the king, it’s one surprising “m#th&rf$ck*ng” delight.
The Hitman's Bodyguard is the kind of film you discover while channel surfing, stop on, and end up watching the whole thing without any previous intention.