Film Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard (USA, 2017) is a funny, familiar buddy-cop ride

Sometimes it’s not always necessary for a film to be unique or spectacular or innovative for it to be enjoyable. Sometimes all we need is for it to be fun and ridiculous and easily digestible for it to provide that escapism. The Hitman’s Bodyguard brings together two particular Hollywood actors who have their own distinct “brand” to lead an action-comedy-buddy-cop-type of film that doesn’t intend to set the world on fire but prefers to just kick back and enjoy itself in an almost meta way.

Australian director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) and scriptwriter Tom O’Connor take a film that is reminiscent of the 80’s and 90’s buddy cop comedies a la Midnight Run or Lethal Weapon and replicates that formula with a modern explosive flair. We meet ‘Triple A Rated Executive Protection Agent” Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a by the book no-nonsense bodyguard who plans for all possible contingencies. His ex girlfriend Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) recruits him to play chaperone and protection detail for Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) a shoot-first ask questions later mouthy assassin who only ever kills bad guys. Kincaid is one of the sole remaining witnesses that can convict evil dictator type Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) so before he can manage to testify, he has to evade Dukhovich’s mercenaries. Only problem is both Bryce and Kincaid have a long standing feud, it’s more likely they’ll try to kill each other than get whacked by the mercs, so hilarity and a lot of action ensues.

The biggest selling point for this is the pairing of Reynolds and Jackson, both of whom have fairly distinctive personas that they exaggerate to good use here. Reynolds is the “sensible” one whilst Jackson is the “loose cannon” and their rapid-fire quips and snips at each other are what deliver the best laughs. It may be a formula we’re used to seeing but these two actors are so adept and comfortable that they make it look easy and furthermore it’s obvious that they are having an absolute blast filming it. Another wildcard that gets thrown in is the inclusion of Salma Hayek as Kincaid’s wife Sonia, although her onscreen time is brief, it leaves a lasting impression.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Oldman’s Dukhovich villain who barely seems sinister besides him barking orders at people. And even though Elodie Yung has been kicking ass over on Daredevil and The Defenders, as the rookie Interpol agent she unfortunately doesn’t get much to do here, other than be the instigator for bringing Bryce and Kincaid together and be on the receiving end of Bryce’s disdain for a slight she did not cause.

The story is fairly basic, and doesn’t try to overstep its limits or boundaries. Instead leaving it in the hands of its two leads to drive the narrative and momentum. There are fleeting moments where O’Connor’s script attempts to delve into some deeply philosophical territory or relationship advice only for those moments to be swept away for the next comedic beat or action scene which is a shame. But at least there was an attempt to have some seriousness even if only briefly.

At just shy of exactly two hours runtime they probably could’ve shaved a good 15 or so minutes off and the film wouldn’t have lost much. Especially since a couple of the particularly clever action sequences and set pieces are a little unnecessarily protracted. We’re probably so numb to large scale action these days that it’s ironic that the one that stands out the most in this film is a scrappy hand-to-hand battle between Bryce and one of the mercenaries in a hardware store. Sometimes smaller is actually better as it’s more interesting to watch the choreography of it all. To add to the films quirkiness too, the soundtrack is littered with odd yet somehow appropriate song choices, including Lionel Richie’s “Hello” and George Michael. Another example of how throwing something off-kilter into it actually works in its favour.

So despite its simplistic story or drawn out action or its underdeveloped satellite characters, the film still manages to be entertaining. Criticism surrounding its unoriginality, or the fact that it satirises films like The Bodyguard (as per the first trailer released or the alternate poster) seem to be missing the point, that films are meant to be entertaining and enjoyable. Not all filmgoers need something special or different, sometimes there’s comfort in familiarity. Now we just need an excuse to have Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson pair up again for another film. Also PSA there is a gag scene at the very end of the credits should you feel like waiting for it.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 118 minutes

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is being distributed by Roadshow Films and will be screening in Australian cinemas from 31 August, 2017.