By Jack Dignan
Originally Published On Salty Popcorn
Samuel L. Jackson, the man who single-handedly invented the phrase “motherfucker,” has been in a lot of movies. Like, pretty much every movie. Literally. They’re not all good, a given with a filmography as large as his, but if he’s in something then I’m in a seat. No questions asked. Then, on the other hand, we have Ryan Reynolds, the man who went from being that one handsome guy that keeps appearing in movies to one of the biggest movie stars on the planet. Together, for the first time, the two blockbuster sensations are joining forces to create THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD, a film that’s barely worthy of their immense talents.
What happens when a man at the top of his game looses it all? That’s the question Ryan Reynolds’ charismatic bodyguard Michael Bryce finds himself asking when the movie begins. He was once a AAA bodyguard, working for the best of the best, but lost it all, including a stable relationship with his now ex-wife Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), when a client was killed. Michael plummeted. He plummeted hard. But, when Amelia is all out of options, she calls in Michael to help go under the radar and protect a new, highly dangerous client the whole world is trying to kill.
This client is Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a famed hit man wanted for countless murder charges. He’s killed a lot of people in his time, and on 27- sorry, 28 times, he’s even tried to kill Michael Bryce. Now, they’re forced to work together and travel across country with enough time spared to bring a stop to infamous leader Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). It’s a race against the clock, with bad guys (or… worse guys, I guess) coming at them from every direction, but none of it really matters if the two of them kill each other first.
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD should have been great. You bring together an interesting, original-ish premise, pair it up with two of the best talents in Hollywood and release it for the world to see, and yet, for the first forty-five minutes, I was in agony. The jokes weren’t working. The plot fell flat. Every character annoyed me. This film failed to hit things off on a high note, and it had me genuinely worried for what was to come. Sure, a joke here or there got me chuckling, most of which felt like improvised banter, but the film wasn’t looking good.
Then, all of a sudden, everything changed. These two leads gained an immediate grasp on the plot and their characters, and their dynamic allowed for some of the most exciting, fun and absolutely ridiculous scenarios from any 2017 released comedy. It remained uneven until the very end, the plot barely even considered a legitimate plot rather than a leeway for the jokes, but Reynolds and Jackson are powerhouse comedic performers, and every time the world “motherfucker” was used, I couldn’t help but laugh.
You’d be surprised how many variations of the word these actors are able to come up with, but, when thrown alongside a number of “bitch please” insults along with other profanities, we get a diverse range of curse words culminating into an artistry of language. The plot is ridiculous. It works, but it’s ridiculous. However, it’s the actors who pull it through and make everything worthwhile, and I cannot give Reynolds and Jackson enough credit. The two share brilliant chemistry, bouncing off each other with more insults than I gave BAD SANTA 2 last year. Please let them appear in more films together, or at least a film where its 118-minute runtime doesn’t feel excruciatingly long.
Elodie Yung, fresh off of her recent success with Netflix’s DAREDEVIL and THE DEFENDERS, doesn’t quite land as many jokes as her co-stars, but that’s more due to the way she’s written than her skills as an actress. In terms of her performance, she’s great. As for her character… not so much. When the action’s going down, Yung holds her own, but outside of that she’s a one dimensional, lackluster addition to the cast that serves as nothing more than a mere extension to Reynolds’ arc. Still, she’s used better and more effectively than Gary Oldman, who I honestly have no idea why he was in this movie to begin with. He must’ve owed a favour to somebody involved.
Unfortunately, two brilliant lead actors aren’t enough to carry an entire film when every other department is severely lacking. If it weren’t for the actors, this film would be unbearable. Despite having an endless number of attractive leads, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD manages to be the single ugliest film I have ever seen. Every shot is over exposed, most noticeably during the outside sequences where characters are consumed by the light. The framing itself is fine, I guess, but the lighting is on a whole other level of bad, constantly distracting the audience with its painful visuals. But then, out of nowhere, there’s this one, really random and unnecessary torture sequence that’s handled with grace and beauty and it looks fantastic.
The editing on SUICIDE SQUAD is bad. I think we can all universally agree with that. But at least in that film you could hear what the characters were saying when its unnecessary pop soundtrack was being played. Several songs are played during THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD that are very poorly sound mixed. Consequently, you cannot hear what any of the characters were saying or what any of the jokes were, most notably during the first few songs. After that things ease up a little, but the opening scenes are impossible to hear. It’s not a cinema thing either, because most of the film was fine, it’s just poor post-production work and it’s embarrassingly bad.
I liked the THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD. Based on the 40% score it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems I liked it more than most. But there’s so much wrong with it, and the lead stars deserve something much better. Even Selma Hayek got dragged into this, and she’s given a mixed handful of really funny, witty writing and dumb, juvenile humour. But at the end of the day, this film has Samuel L. Jackson enthusiastically singing in a van full of very religious nuns who all hate Ryan Reynolds, and upon watching that, I discovered the reason why cinema was invented.
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