8/10 Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is a riot. It’s a trashy, meat-and-potatoes genre piece that’s light on the meat, but it’s got an avalanche of potatoes, and that’s just fine.
The Italian Riviera- Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), suffering post-traumatic nightmares after the previous film, takes sabbatical away from guns and all manner of violence while he waits for his bodyguarding license to be renewed. Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek), also on the riviera for her honeymoon, pulls Bryce out of his peace to help rescue her husband, Bryce’s archnemesis Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). After a successful rescue, all three of them are blackbagged and blackmailed into working for Interpol in lieu of the critical mole they just killed to stop a plot to demolish the European power grid. They’ll intersect with this plot in a few different ways, but the Kincaids are mostly interested in returning to their honeymoon with Interpol’s money.
Obviously not everyone thinks Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard hits the mark and comedy is inherently subjective, but what isn’t subjective is how hard this movie works to amuse viewers. The joke density is staggering, with barely a 10-second span going by without some type of punchline. It distinctly recalls high-octane TV comedies like South Park and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in that way, this overpowering torrent of irreverence.
It also recalls those shows with its pointedly crude subject matter and Always Sunny in particular with its characters’ iron commitment to whatever premise they’re working with. The situation gets more and more absurd, but the characters never blink. The comic elements are completely integrated into the action and plot – there’s no pausing to do bits, we’re just careening from joke to joke and plot point to plot point. Nothing ever stops, and the movie almost feels more interested in wearing a viewer down to the point of amusement than directly amusing them.
That makes Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard sound like it isn’t funny, and that’s not the case at all. The surface-level humor is a stellar mix of guttermouth, slapstick and character-based anxiety jokes – nothing particularly new, but it’s all effective and mixed thoroughly enough to create a texture to the humor as you go through it at warp speed.
It’s nice to see a movie that addresses PTSD, and mental health in general, without allowing it to consume the movie or character. Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard treats PTSD and Bryce’s mental health in general just as seriously as it treats everything else – it’s serious to Bryce, but he’s surrounded by characters who dislike him personally and aren’t above making fun of his troubles. At no point do the Kincaids cater to Bryce, and at no point does the movie take an explicit stance on whether he deserves sympathy or should just “man up” or some similar dismissal, he’s just an explicitly ill character existing in a movie.
As an action movie, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard leaves quite a bit to be desired, particularly in the rear-screen work and some of the explosion effects that were far too obviously painted in. It’s easy to say that isn’t the point of the movie, but that’s not an excuse that should generally be allowed – if you’re putting it onscreen, it becomes the point of the movie, and it needs to be done properly. That said, the fight scenes themselves are all fun and exciting and usually have some silly splatter-gore on offer.
The real point of the movie is as a space for high-level actors to have fun on the job – that’s why it exists at all. The first one wasn’t particularly successful, but all the principals are back and happy to be back, and I’m happy to be back watching them.