Hitman's Bodyguard, TheReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/18/17 08:42:56
I have always had a sneaking suspicion that if you took the films that Samuel L. Jackson has made throughout his career and counted up the number of times that he says fuck” in each one, you would find that in most cases, the higher the “fuck” count, the lower the overall quality. Granted, this isn’t always the case—Lord knows he drops one F-bomb after another in his various collaborations with Quentin Tarantino and those films are all pretty much aces as far as I am concerned. In the case of the Tarantino films, however, the scripts also contain interesting storylines, creative narrative approaches, fully fleshed-out characters and the kind of dialogue that is so wonderfully phrased and delivered that you want to savor every word, even those of the four-letter variety. Most of the time, however, these films tend to be dregs because they are utterly lacking any redeeming or memorable qualities to speak of and the filmmakers, with nothing left to offer, simply opt to have Jackson act like a Tourette’s victim in order to score cheap laughs from those in the audience who still find vulgar language to be inherently funny. A good case in point—though not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination—is his latest vehicle, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” a painfully wretched, gruesomely violent and artlessly vulgar action-comedy that is so devoid of genuine entertainment value that anyone not harboring a bizarre sense of nostalgia for the Brett Ratner oeuvre will find themselves wondering how it could have possibly gotten made in the first place, let alone attracted a number of excellent actors to deliver some of the most nondescript performances of their careers.As the film opens, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is an elite bodyguard specializing in the rich and sleazy is blown all to hell when a client gets shot in the head on his watch. Two years later, he is barely eking out a living much further down on the protection industry scale when an ex-girlfriend, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), offers him a gig with the promise of restoring his reputation. The vile Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), the recently overthrown president of Belarus, is on trial at the Hague for a long list of crimes but all of the witnesses to his depravations keep dying and it appears as if he may wind up walking. The last chance the prosecution has to make their case is to bring in currently imprisoned hit man extraordinaire Darius Kincaid (Jackson) to testify in exchange for the release of his jailed wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek). Alas, Interpol has been compromised but if Bryce can get Kincaid from Manchester to the Hague within 27 hours to deliver his testimony, everything will once again be swell for him and who knows, he might even get another shot with Amelia, whom he still carries a torch for despite his conviction that she betrayed him in a way that led to the fateful death of his client.
In shocking news, it turns out that there are a couple of hiccups to this plan. For starters, the paths of Bryce and Kincaid have crossed many times in the past through their respective professions and they hate each other with the kind of intensity that can only be eased with a dangerous road trip. Meanwhile, Vladislav, in an effort to ensure his release, has not only sent out a seemingly endless supply of heavily armed loyalists to kill Kincaid along the way but has paid off a top Interpol official (Joaquim de Almeida) to help in the efforts to finish Kincaid off for good. (If you fear that I have revealed a key plot twist, I promise you that it is revealed fairly early in the narrative and de Almedia pretty much tips things off even before that with his not-exactly-subtle turn.) As their journey proceeds, Bryce and Kincaid spend most of their time killing dozens of would-be assassins and the rest at each others throats as they desperately try to make their deadline.
So basically, what we have here is essentially a revamp of the action/buddy/road movie classic “Midnight Run,” albeit with a much higher body count. Unfortunately, that is the only area in which it even comes close to matching, let alone besting, its predecessor. The screenplay by Tom O’Connor is basically a live-action cartoon in which our heroes can undergo incredible amounts of punishment (including falling off of a building and undergoing electroshock torture) only to snap back a few seconds later none the worse for wear. In theory, I do not necessarily have a problem with this approach but it has to be applied equally across the board for it to work. Here, the film kicks off with a flashback to Bryce’s client getting shot in the head, proceeds to a scene in which a man is forced to watch the execution of his wife and young son before kicking off an endless array of bad guys being shot, stabbed and blown up in gruesome detail and without picking themselves up, brushing themselves off and starting over again. Beyond that, there is not a single original or uniquely handled item to be had—our heroes are not particularly interesting, their hostile banter is contrived and never funny and the elaborate scrapes they get into are lazily staged by director Patrick Hughes, the auteur of “The Expendables 3,” a film that comes across like “The Philadelphia Story” in comedic terms compared to this. Oh yeah, the finale is especially irritating because, without giving anything away, it more or less suggests that the entire harrowing journey that we have witnessed was completely unnecessary right from the get-go.
A bigger question than the ending, however, is why so many good actors would choose to sign on for a project that feels like DTV fodder that accidentally landed a proper theatrical release. Jackson, Oldman and Hayek are all much-admired and Oscar-nominated actors and it is dispiriting to see them slumming as they do here. Jackson, as I have suggested before, has played variations of his role here any number of times in the past and goes through his paces here in the laziest manner imaginable—with its over-reliance on yelling and cursing passing for character detail, it almost feels as if he was asked to simply do an imitation of himself. Likewise, Oldman is pretty terrible as well in his few scenes but at least he gets to amuse himself, if no one else, with his extremely broad Belarus accent. That is more than the embarrassingly underused Hayek is allowed—all she gets to do for the most part is sit in a cell and act like a spitfire. Even the walking smirk that is Ryan Reynolds, whose filmography is not quite as exemplary as his co-stars (unless you overly venerate “Van Wilder,” of course, and here is hoping that you don’t) seems bored being stuck in the kind of film that one might have assumed he would no longer have to do thanks to the massive success of “Deadpool.”The summer movie season that was 2017 had its share of duds and bores, to be sure, but for the most part, it was a better than average period in terms of quality because many of the best releases chose to ignore the usual formulas and try something different and even some of the sequels, remakes and comic book extravaganzas had more going for them than usual. It is kind of depressing, then, to find a film as tired and tiresome as “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” more or less closing out the season on a low note. (The thought that it might end up making more money on its opening weekend than the infinitely more amusing and entertaining “Logan Lucky” is almost too depressing to contemplate.) I just hope that at least Samuel L. Jackson got a bonus for every time he says “fuck” in the film—if that were the case, he would make so much money off of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” that he would never have to make another movie like it again.
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