The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)
Dir. Patrick Hughes
Scr. Tom O’Connor
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) has hit hard times. 2 years ago he was running a personal security service for wealthy high-profile clients (A “Triple-A certified” service, as he keeps saying throughout the film), he was driving expensive cars, had a beautiful girlfriend (Elodie Yung). Then a client of his was killed by a sniper just before taking off in a jet and Bryce’s house of cards toppled over. Now he’s driving a shitty beat-up car, broke up with his girlfriend and is reduced to protecting slimy, second-grade white collar-criminals (like Richard E. Grant in a little cameo). Meanwhile a ruthless dictator of Belarus, Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) has been brought to Hague to stand trial for his war crimes. The problem? The prosecutions witnesses keep getting disappeared (killed) and any solid evidence keeps getting discarded. The prosecutions last hope is a notorious hitman named Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), who has agreed to testify in exchange of the release of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek). Bryce’s former girlfriend Amelia, an Interpol agent, is assigned to lead the security detail that will escort Kincaid from Coventry, England to Hague. The Interpol unfortunately has been compromised and the convoy gets almost immediately attacked. Realizing that the agency is compromised, Amelia contacts Bryce for help. Unfortunately Bryce and Kincaid have a long history together – namely that Kincaid has “tried to kill him 28 times”. But as Bryce has really nowhere else to go but up, he reluctantly agrees to protect Kincaid and the two begin a long journey through several countries, trying to avoid Dukhovich’s assassins and also trying to avoid killing each other…
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is like those old pair of sneakers that you still like to wear most of the time – sure, they’re kinda stretched, kinda torn up, and not very clean and shiny, but goddammit they still feel the most comfortable in your feet.
That was the short version. Let’s ramble on a little bit further:
Let’s start by saying that whatever story-problems and whatnot The Expendables 3 had, I felt that it was definitely the best-directed movie of that trilogy (the first one was shaky-cammed up to the wazoo and the second one was just a CGI-bloodfest that looked pedestrian and UGLY), so I definitely put Patrick Hughes into my list of new directors to keep a watch on. And he didn’t disappoint. The action-scenes in this film are very well executed; the foot/car/motorcycle/boat-chase through Amsterdam that happens in the end of the second act might be one of my favorite set-pieces of this year. And you can clearly see it was filmed on location and not in some fucking greenscreen stage. And the most important thing of them all: you can actually SEE what’s going on. And where all the different characters are in relation to each other. In this sort of action-flick that shit’s important, you know? It helps that Hughes is definitely not from the “13 different shots of a guy climbing over a fence”-school of action.
And another thing: that action that you can actually see & follow is also bloody as hell. This is definitely not your typical (for the last decade or so at least) PG-13 family friendly, sanitized Happy Meal Mcaction movie – this movie has a SERIOUS bodycount. And speaking of counts – another thing it has aplenty of is HARSH LANGUAGE. I’m pretty sure there will be a YouTube-video listing all the variations the word “fuck” is used here. By pretty much everyone, but naturally Sam Jackson in particular. Bloody action, an odd couple-pair of heroes, endless profanity – this makes the movie feel like a throwback to the late 80’s/early 90’s (sans the orange/blue filters though). You know; back when things were good. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh – makes it sound like there aren’t that many good things done these days…
So yeah, back when things were good.
I can’t be the only one who has noticed that Samuel L. Jackson has recently been looking like he’s actually enjoying acting again. There was that period of time when he was doing like 7-8 movies per year (even some DTV stuff) and seemed to be a bit of a Samuel L. Jackson-factory; at some point it started to look like he was just phoning it in. Granted, Sam Jackson phoning it in is STILL a lot better than most actors can do, but you can see my point. I think it was Tarantino’s Django Unchained that ended up sort of recharging him – and after that he’s done a whole string of some excellent work (for example in Kingsman: The Secret Service and The Hateful Eight). And he’s on fire here too – full of piss and vinegar. And as I was talking about 90’s throwbacks; having Sam Jackson say “motherfucker” on screen for most of the duration of the film just has that certain special essence that makes me feel all happy and warm inside.
Ryan Reynolds does his usual sardonic action-man shtick. Nothing wrong with that – it can be a bit “hit or miss” (for every Deadpool there’s a R.I.P.D.) but having him paired up with someone who can give and take at an equal measure as him certainly helps. There is a part of me that wishes that Reynolds would at some point tap into that hidden potential he has shown on occasion though; his work in Smokin’ Aces for example was – pardon the pun – aces. And definitely not him being his usual sardonic self. That wouldn’t work in this movie, obviously – that was just me thinking out loud. And upping the word-count on this article.
Salma Hayek has a small role and for most of it she’s stuck in a prison cell, but she ends up kinda stealing the movie as her character is probably the most foul-mouthed and violent one in the movie – there’s a flashback scene of the moment her and Jackson’s characters met for the first time and it’s basically her absolutely DESTROYING a bar full of thugs in slow motion, with Lionel Richie’s “Hello” playing in the background (the song-selections on the soundtrack are ALL winners, come to think of it – the score was a bit generic though). Another candidate for my favorite scenes of this year.
Being up against all these heavyweights, Elodie Yung ends up having a really underwritten role – and her storyline is a little problematic at times (more of that later), but she does a good job with what’s given to her.
And you CAN’T go more “90’s throwback” than casting Gary Oldman and Joaquim de Almeida (Clear and Present Danger, Desperado) as villains – they did that stuff all the time way back then. And do their thing here just as professionally as ever – only both being slightly older now. Especially Oldman – who has spent the last decade and a half playing pretty much good guys – shows how damn effective and threatening he can still be, even if his part is not really that large.
But – there are some problems with the movie as well, and they all have to do with what I think was a bit hurried post-production – I can only speculate but as this was a Netflix/Lionsgate co-production I think there was a Netflix release-date that was set in stone and they had to make it, no matter what. Because the film definitely could have used a bit more time in the editing-room. Clocking at almost 2 hours, it just feels too long. They could’ve easily cut about 10-15 minutes out and the film would’ve flown ahead much more smoothly.
Example: while most of the banter between Reynolds/Jackson was funny, there was just too much of it (and this stuff just works better when done on the move anyway – not when the characters are just sitting down). One instance is a completely pointless “sing-off” they have in the early stages when they are trying to out-annoy each other. Another would be a scene with a busload of nuns – that has even more singing. Those two sequences were definitely “deleted scenes” material that would’ve probably hit the floor in the next pass through the Avid. Another thing is an absolutely pointless subplot of the reason why Bryce and Amelia broke up. It’s repetitive and I at least guessed the truth of that at the first go – but they keep milking that for several more times and it just becomes annoying.
But anyways, in spite of it’s small problems, if you want to have a little nostalgia-trip (but not the kind where you have the nostalgia shoved down your throat with a “wink wink, nudge nugde” mentality), The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a perfect Friday night-movie. Especially if you have a few alcoholic beverages at hand. Wasn’t that the way how the spiritual predecessors of this were watched in the first place?