Not only are old fashioned buddy comedies rather rare these days, but they are often not particular inspired. However, certain buddy films can get a lot of mileage out of really great pairings. Such is the case of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, which is written by Tom O’Connor and directed by Patrick Hughes. The pairing of the film is Samuel L. Jackson as the hitman, Darius Kincaid, and Ryan Reynolds as the bodyguard, Michael Bryce.
By almost any other standard, there isn’t much going for the film, since the plotting is rather tedious, and anytime the film cuts away from our two leads to push the plot forward about some kind of evil dictator (played by Gary Oldman) being held on trial as the government awaits for Kincaid to be delivered to give a testimony that can put the dictator away for good. It’s not as compelling as one would hope, and the most bizarre thing about it is that whenever Bryce and Kincaid are not on screen, the film is completely devoid of jokes. It makes all the in-between plot stuff feel lifeless and dull, and frankly, a chore to sit through. This is especially strange because Gary Oldman is typically the one thing you can rely on to breathe life into schlocky action movies like he has many times before, but he’s weirdly subdued here.
The film also has a look and aesthetic that can only really be described as “dollar bin dvd.” Despite having two of the biggest stars on the planet, apparently the studio couldn’t bother coughing up a few extra dollars to make their film at least look like it was made by professionals. It looks cheap, the green screen is atrocious, and it also doesn’t help that the action is also nothing to write home about for most of it. It’s not necessarily that it’s unwatchable, but you would expect better considering the people involved.
Thankfully, as the film goes along, it does get better, and it does a better job at leaning more on the razor sharp chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson than the forgettable movie happening around them. The banter is gleefully, and effortlessly, vulgar, irreverent, and has just enough self-awareness in terms of playing with the presence these two actors have had on pop culture, but without ever going obnoxiously meta. When they’re onscreen together, it doesn’t just work, it works like gangbusters. If I had one nitpick to make, it’s that the film never quite leans on the implied bromance, never really utilizing Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” which was hilarious in some of the previews and posters that parodied The Bodyguard.
The rest of the cast is serviceable enough, but aren’t really given anything to do. Gary Oldman, like I said, disappointingly doesn’t go full ham like he tends to with roles like this, Élodie Yung is given a thankless role of an Interpol agent and Bryce’s ex-girlfriend, Joaquim de Almeida makes the most of an underwritten role of a corrupt politician, and everyone else is mostly snoozing through. The only exception to this is Salma Hayek, who is legitimately great in this. She plays Sonia Kincaid, Darius’ wife, and she is just as brutal and vulgar as he is, leading to some of the funniest (and surprisingly sweetest) moments in the entire film. It’s arguably just as underwritten as most of the other characters, but she brings in a lot of personality and a lot of energy, and it goes a long way.
The film also knows that even if you don’t have much going on, the best thing you can do is end on a bang, and the film does exactly that. Once the third act kicks into gear, the action is genuinely spectacular, the comedy blends well into the action set pieces, and the stunt work is terrific. It’s almost like a completely different movie, but I’m not complaining. The action really does shine here, with chases, gun fights, and brawls filmed really well, full of well choreographed stunts, and Reynolds and Jackson cracking jokes while kicking ass. The third act really makes it worth it, and the film finally becomes worthy of its pairing.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t going to make anyone’s top ten of 2017 by any means, but as a buddy action movie, it does (eventually) get the job done. It’s a totally serviceable romp that fans of the lead actors will get enough kick out of to kill a couple hours, and action junkies will definitely dig the final act set pieces. In a way, it almost feels like a relic of the mid-90s, like one of those seemingly disposable action fare that comes and goes, but by today’s standards, feels like a breath of fresh air, at least, to me it does. For everyone else, don’t expect the film to do any more than the bare minimum, and you’ll be just fine. It’s no Nice Guys, but it is perfectly solid entertainment.