Ryan Reynolds is on the verge of becoming the star his talents hinted he’d go on to be as far back as Van Wilder, a certain latex wearing pottymouth named Deadpool made sure of that. The Hitman’s Bodyguard will test his appeal outside of the merc-with-a-mouth, although it won’t stretch him as an actor, because within the first five minutes they have him look directly into the camera, and from thereon in its archetype city. This is followed by Coventry City, Manchester, London, Amsterdam, and The Hague, as Reynolds’ wise-cracking security agent escorts Samuel L. ‘muthafuckin’ Jackson, for that might as well be his name, 50% of his dialogue is that word, rinsed for all its worth in the comedy stakes, to testify in a human rights trial against Gary Oldman’s deliciously OTT Belarussian warlord. If you think that synopsis is a mess, wait until you see the film.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard has a lot going for it. With leads like Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson spit balling for nigh on two hours, you’re going to get some decent one-liners from two very watchable actors, the problem is that you can’t help feeling that it should have been a whole lot better. Most of the time they’re just shouting at eachother, there even comes a point in the film in which Reynolds addresses the issue by screaming “Why are we always yelling?”, but they continue to do so anyway, so caught up in the Wile E Coyote nature of the movie.
It’s with this desire to be loud and explosion filled that The Hitman’s Bodyguard might win you over. It feels as though Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes has just gone, oh to hell with it, and tried to get a much crammed in as possible. So we get a “dust up in Coventry”, possibly the first and last time that will be said in a Hollywood action film, a superbly staged canal boat chase that outdoes even the best Bond water pursuits, and a Black Betty bam-a-lam of a final reel car chase. The action might not be anything new, but it’s handled well enough to have your undivided attention in a summer of bangs for your buck.
Hughes ensures that it isn’t just large scale set-pieces though, and adds to the hotchpotch nature of a film, which feels like three or four screenplays of varying quality just thrown together incoherently, by including an impressive Bourne style DIY store smackdown, and numerous Guy Ritchie style flashbacks, in which sequences are held together by voiceover and some heightened visual flair. Usually these scenes feature the terrific Salma Hayek, who gets to have fun as a particularly sweary jailbird, but much like the rest of the movie, she’s a gag stretched to breaking point.
At times The Hitman’s Bodyguard feels like an unintentional parody, or a 13 year old boy’s fantasy writ large, but with some genuinely funny jokes amongst the mayhem – a post-assassination scene is described as a “Goddamn milkshake” – all thrown at a rate of knots, just to see what sticks, by a cast who’re operating in their comfort zones, so-much-so that you could have stuck them in pipe-and-slippers, it still remains mindless, leave your brain in the foyer screwball fun.