The Hitman's Bodyguard is one of those boilerplate timewasters within the action genre, a movie that plays in front of an audience likely to forget they saw it by the time they go to the theater the following weekend. The film's draw is the involvement of two leading men, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, in roles that seem written both to fit their personalities and to provide a sociopathic twist on those personalities. Tom O'Connor's screenplay certainly seems dedicated to that end, but the means to get there are by way of a generic action thriller that throws in some yuks for good measure.
That comic angle certainly doesn't seem to fit a movie whose plot primarily follows the activities of a dictator whose Presidency over the country of Belarus consists of ethnic cleansing. Our introduction to the character sees him kill the wife and child of a man who refuses to bend to his will, and for the remainder of the film, he is on trial for crimes against humanity at The Hague. Perhaps O'Connor envisioned a different tone for the film on the page. Whatever the case, the comic material sticks out here. Even the action sequences aren't reliant on the dumb luck of our antiheroes but played straight while those antiheroes trade quips and laugh hysterically through all of it.
In one corner, we have Bryce (Reynolds), a disgraced security professional whose "triple-A" status hit a permanent speed-bump when a client was killed on his watch. In the other corner, we have Kincaid (Jackson), a mercenary whose kill total exceeds 200. We don't really learn anything about the two beyond their romantic histories. For Bryce, that is Interpol agent Roussel (Elodie Yung), who hires him to protect Kincaid when it seems that the organization has been compromised. For Kincaid, it is his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek). Both backstories are presented as jokes involving brutal violence, but the "jokes" are crude and unfunny, undermining any reason to care for these two (as if any was going to be granted to us in the first place).
The plot is relatively simple: The Belarusian President, Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman, whose wasted menace is further evidence to support that this was maybe a dramatic action thriller at some point in its conception), has been killing off witnesses to war crimes and other atrocities committed or perpetuated by him, and Kincaid is the latest needed by The Hague for the purpose of testifying against him. Dukhovich has his men, both in his own unit and within the corrupt walls of Interpol, hunt down Kincaid and, by extension, Bryce. Cue a lot of vehicular carnage and hand-to-hand combat.
The carnage and combat are, at least, competently staged by director Patrick Hughes, despite some imprecise effects work. A craftily staged car/motorcycle/boat chase smack in the middle of the movie is especially impressive. It isn't enough. The movie is distracted by its imbalance of tone and by the chaotic chemistry of its leads. To that end, Reynolds and Jackson are abandoned to provide most of the limited fun within The Hitman's Bodyguard, a movie for which the description "action comedy" is not apt.
Ryan Reynolds (Michael Bryce), Samuel L. Jackson (Darius Kincaid), Elodie Yung (Amelia Roussel), Gary Oldman (Vladislav Dukhovich), Salma Hayek (Sonia Kincaid), Joaquim de Almeida (Jean Foucher), Tine Joustra (Renata Casoria), Yuri Kolokolnikov (Ivan).
Directed by Patrick Hughes and written by Tom O'Connor.
Rated R (violence, language throughout).
Released on August 18, 2017.