Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds team up in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an action-comedy that is a fun and dumb summer romp. Jackson is delightful as the career hitman Darius Kincaid, a role with an edge of cartoonishness seemingly written with only Jackson in mind. Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a rules-oriented bodyguard whose career has tanked since the assassination of a major client. There’s lots of bloody action violence and car chases. There’s also Salma Hayek as Kincaid’s surly wife, imprisoned for a crime, probably murder, in Amsterdam.
What is the story, then? Well, that’s where it gets contrived, because why would a hitman need protection if they’re basically a killing machine all on their own?
Kincaid starts the movie in prison. Interpol requests his testimony as a witness against the dictator president of Belarus (Gary Oldman). One of the Interpol officers, Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), is put in charge of his police escort from Manchester, England to the International Court in The Hague for the trial. Naturally the escort mission goes terribly wrong and ends in a bloody shoot-out, with Roussel and Kincaid as the last two standing. His knee has been shot so he can’t run away, but because he was convinced to do the testimony in exchange for the freedom of his wife, he opts to remain in Roussel’s custody for the remainder of the transport.
That is, until Reynolds’ character Bryce shows up. Bryce is, to put it mildly, sloppy. His career in shambles, he has been reduced to being a bodyguard-for-hire for bad attorneys, and he seems to live a transient lifestyle out of a car. He’s so apathetic that his bottle of piss doesn’t even make it into a trash can, it stays in his car, the backseat of which “smells like ass.” Apparently in Bryce’s heyday he was in a relationship with Roussel, so she calls on him for help. Bryce’s phone contact for her is “pure evil,” but the anger is really one-sided: he thinks that she was responsible for the single biggest failure of his career.
Rather than accompany them on the trip, she leaves them to go it alone. One would think that a witness who is in mortal danger could have two protectors, especially when one is the police, but Roussel deduces that because there is a mole in Interpol, she can’t come along. She goes right back to work at Interpol, where they swiftly put her on leave for the disastrous mission, and the handoff to some rando.
This begins the start of a road trip across England to get on a boat to The Netherlands. As in any road trip film, there are songs, there’s exposition, there’s the piss-stop. Throw in a few expletives from Sam and you’ve got yourself a few laughs, but Reynolds holds his own by being less the straight man and more the disgruntled watchful protector. The only mission is to get Kincaid to that trial.
The trial itself and the story surrounding it… well, that’s where the movie falls flat. The trial against an obviously evil man accused of ethnic cleansing and disappearances is separate story from the road trip narrative. The dictator hired mercenaries to capture and kill Kincaid by any means necessary, and that’s who Kincaid and Bryce are also trying to evade, but the dictator’s early scenes would’ve made just as much sense if half of them were on the cutting room floor.
As much as I love Gary Oldman, he plays a crusty raisin with a bad accent. Sorry Gary. Perhaps he couldn’t pass up the chance to work with Sam again. Their face-off at the end is worth the wait, even if the near two hours it takes to get there grows tedious with the recurring cycle of chases.
Some of the strongest comedic moments come from Sam Jackson, of course, who is seemingly un-killable. His pairing with the murderous Salma Hayek is an unexpected but welcome one. The man is willing to do anything for his lady, and if it means getting chased across two countries, so be it.
If you’re looking for a movie that is mindless but is full of familiar faces, this is it. It’s not as violent as Reynolds’ Deadpool, but much of it has a similar feel, especially as Reynolds’ character becomes more and more jaded. If you like Samuel L. Jackson, you’ll enjoy this, but don’t expect much.