7/10 The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t much of a film, but it’s a riot of a movie.
As vicious Belarusian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) stands trial in the World Court for countless atrocities, prosecutors can’t get witnesses to the stand alive. Interpol’s last hope is Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a notorious hitman who once turned Dukhovich down and has hard evidence linking him to a war crime. After the prison transport is betrayed from the inside, the only hope for international justice is that private protection specialist Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) can get Kincaid to The Hague before the case is thrown out.
The only problem? Bryce and Kincaid hate each other.
There are a lot of things about The Hitman’s Bodyguard that make it downright painful to watch with a critical eye. It literally starts with an old man named Kurosawa, after one of history’s most important filmmakers, getting his head blown off.
But the overwhelming charm and talent of a cast for the ages shines through. They’ve got Jackson and Reynolds going at it in parts that are tailor-made for them. They’ve got Oldman, their backup living legend, in a bit role. Selma Hayak is there as Kincaid’s wife, Sonia, relishing every second of screentime she gets. The Hitman’s Bodyguard clearly accounted for some very fun days at the office for everyone involved.
Tom O’Connor’s script is mostly wonderful, but there are some mechanical problems. It opens with two conflicting back-to-back introductions of Bryce’s character, then continues to lay the groundwork for its main conflict. Taking your time and treating establishing scenes with care is a good thing, but the movie doesn’t get interesting until Kincaid and Bryce are in the same room, and it takes about 20 long minutes to get there. There are a lot of flashbacks from that point on anyway, and many of the establishing scenes get rehashed. The movie should open on Dukhovich, then get to the main buddy setup as quickly as possible from there and then roll the scenes that would be cut out to do this back in when they’re addressed. Given context within the main story, they’ll be fun flashbacks instead of dull, sit-through-it setup.
Easily the worst thing about the movie, however, is its visual editing. Whoever was in charge of post-production and light correction should just stop. Whenever light is in the background, it’s overwhelmingly bright and eats up more important elements in the frame with lens flares that look like they weren’t even there in the original shot. It’s a constant distraction from otherwise well-composed images.
Additionally, the greenscreen is extremely obvious whenever it’s used, often as background that could have easily been gotten for real as in this shot.
The all-star cast overcomes being difficult to see with some electric performances, albeit in roles that we’ve seen them in before. Kincaid spends his time yelling obscenities and laughing obnoxiously, and Bryce brings an extremely self-aware brand of humor to the table. It’s a bit foreboding to see Reynolds in his first post-Deadpool role playing such a similarly genre-savvy character — he’s far too talented to be typecast, even in a part he’s so perfect for. Then again, the results are a lot of fun.
This world does not deserve Samuel L. Jackson. Even at 68 years old — easy to forget he didn’t get his big break in Pulp Fiction till he was in his mid-40s — he’s still taking physically demanding roles in cheap, potentially forgettable movies and still giving them his all. So many actors of his age and stature would go into an obnoxious semi-retirement and only appear on talkshows and in the odd Tarantino film, but he’s still bringing his charisma, professionalism and legitimacy to as many movies as he can.
I guess that’s really the secret here — despite characters they’ve essentially played a dozen times, both Reynolds and Jackson still give The Hitman’s Bodyguard their all. Never for a moment do they let up, not a single line is performed without conviction. They treated this predictable, two-bit action movie like it was worth their time, and in doing so they made it worth yours.
Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and a syndicated columnist with the Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.