Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a bodyguard. Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is a hitman. The bodyguard must bodyguard the hitman. Hilarity ensues.
Except, not too much hilarity. Some hilarity. Well, maybe hilarity isn’t the word. There are some chuckles.
But mostly the film is heavy on the loud, boisterous action. Some of this action is handled quite well. There is one hand-to-hand combat sequence between Reynolds and a bevy of guards that traverses through a kitchen and then a hardware store. This is a particularly sound action sequence, especially as it is cross-cut with Jackson being chased by car.
In this way, The Hitman’s Bodyguard works better as a straight action film than it does a comedy. There are a number of quips between Jackson and Reynolds that work well, particularly later in the movie when the two characters have received a genuine rapport, but these work better under buddy cop conventions than comedy ones.
The other comedy in the film is clunky, when one speaks in generous terms. A crass-mouthed Salma Hayek is the first sign of this comedic shortcoming, but the main culprit is blatant use of cliches to make its comic case. It appears as if the film intends to be in on the joke when utilizing these cliches, but it rarely subverts them.
The other glaring (quite literally) error with the film is its technical shortcomings. There are truly poor shots in this film, especially when the attention is not given to action. Most of this has to do with lighting, which is overexposed far too often for a big budget film. Even as an intentional choice, it is by no means aesthetically pleasing to see blown-out light around our protagonists.
When it comes down to it, however, The Hitman’s Bodyguard survives on its core relationship. Reynolds and Jackson work well together, even when they are shouting profusely (there is, at least, a recognition of this loudness late in the film). While at first it seems like Reynolds is phoning it in, with his lazy voiceover, both him and Jackson bring their well-known charisma to their roles.
So while the film fails to be either an original action film nor a satisfactory all-around comedy, it has its moments where both genres can shine. If only briefly.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard: C
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)