FILM REVIEW: Ryan Reynolds & Samuel L. Jackson Revive Camp With THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD
Every once in a while a movie so resoundingly bad comes along that it goes full circle from stinking to shining around itself. The genre, once called “camp,” used to be much more common, at least until movies insisted on taking themselves seriously for reasons unknown.
Enter The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an upcoming crime thriller/comedy film about a risk-averse bodyguard, Michael (Ryan Reynolds) and his charge, a risk-loving notorious contract killer known as Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). The movie is trying hard to be taken seriously within its genre and not within the today-maligned camp world. But its intentions notwithstanding, the picture is altogether so dysfunctional as to somehow, by the end, make you genuinely laugh. Go figure.
Michael starts out as a bodyguard on top of the world, with slick and slide suits and cars, debonair looks and sexy ladies in his bed. Then, after a job goes terribly awry, he goes from defender of the Paris Hiltons to protector of the Perez Hiltons faster than you can say Whitney Houston. Washed up, boozed up, and forgotten, he becomes the protector of other such individuals.
Some convoluted plot points later, he is tasked with protecting his sworn enemy (Kincaid) in what could be the job that gives him his career back. These traverses involve Gary Oldman doing his best old school Russian impersonation as Dukhovich, a sinister Eastern European dictator on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity, and Kincaid, a star witness (potentially the only witness) needing to get through Dukhovich’s barricades of videogame henchmen in order to testify against the tyrant.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard would be bad enough with its painfully bad day-lighting, enough to make most outside scenes inexplicably boring, its unnecessarily ear-shattering soundtrack, and its groan-inducing, illogical, obnoxious dialogue. But when the film delves into even more ridiculous territory—the supposed burgeoning friendship between the two sworn enemies, the love backstories of each of them, the truth about who really is a good guy and who isn’t—guffawing will come involuntarily. How many times have these buddy cop procedurals delve into these heedless sentimentalities? The Heat? The Nice Guys? I’m talking just about the recent years. It’s boring and it needs to stop.
All of this is on top of the boringly convoluted and repetitive chase scenes, in which the cars pirouette from slow to fast, the bullets fly along with the blood, the shots find a way of always missing or always striking as needed, and the explosions, punches, and lacerations all pulp on top of each into a pile of insignificance. And don’t get me started on the plot holes.
And yet, by the end of the entire steaming pile of wreckage, something rather remarkable happens. The chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson sort of clicks somehow, their uneven banter leads you to, against your better judgment, trust me, root for the pair (even though you know the outcome).
It turns out that The Hitman’s Bodyguard, as bad as it is as an action or a comedy, is actually a masterful actor’s piece. It is, first of all, criminally mistitled, because the movie is about Jackson’s character, not Reynolds’. And the Deadpool actor, having made great comedic strides as the gruesome superhero, takes a step back in this movie, completely overshadowed and over-performed by the talent of those around him. Jackson, in particular, gives one of his signature performances, one that he is clearly dialing in but that works so well in any case, in between curses and mismatched idioms. You know that when Michael tells Kincaid he needs to stay out of harm’s way and Jackson sardonically replays: “B***h, I AM harm’s way,” you are in for an amusing ride.
Oldman, though less present throughout, also does his best impersonation of himself, reminding us of why he’s always been the bad guy we love to hate since movies like Air Force One. And Salma Hayek has a smaller role as Kincaid’s feisty wife, one of the pawns in the deadly game between international police, international assassins, and international murderous leaders. She shows up cursing up a storm, a more R-rated version of what she did in Sausage Party, and she does it well, though the script betrays her eventually as it requires to go to the well one too many times.
I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this messy movie that at times makes Gerard Butler’s worst, like London Has Fallen, seem like Spielberg pics. But I also cannot tell you not to go see it, because if you are a fan of any of the four principal actors in this film—particularly of Samuel L. Jackson—you will end up having the time of your life and may even think of this film as one of the worst cult classics you’ve ever seen.
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