2017; dir. Patrick Hughes
Writer: Tom O’Connor
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung and Gary Oldman
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is exactly the kind of mid level Summer flare you’re expecting. Just take a moment and think about what you think this movie is going to be, and that’s exactly what you’re going to get out of this one. There’s nothing else to be said here; no hidden masterpiece, no underlying subtext creating a counter narrative against the grain of the films story, and definitely no guise to suggest that it is anything more than what it sets out to be.
What does The Hitman’s Bodyguard set out to be, though?
The film is an action/drama/comedy romp that has a hard time figuring out which one of the three it predominately wants to be. There’s courthouse drama about a Belarus war criminal randomly played by an incredibly subdued Gary Oldman, there’s Michael Mann grade shootouts that are violent and terrifying, and there are bromantic scenes between Reynolds and Jackson that drive the heart of the film and – occasionally – strike a balance between the three genres and show us something really special.
The rest of the movie? Not so special. What it is, from start to finish, is a medium budget adventure that evolves the buddy cop formula into a buddy killer assassin formula forced through a cynics prism, giving us a reserved gunfu type John Woo epic that feels neither regard nor reason to restrain itself from making any cynical joke it pleases. This isn’t an offensive movie by any means, but it dials up the action cliches and violent humor in a way that is playfully exaggerated and wonderfully engrossing all the same.
Think of the elegant coordination of Hard Boiled, but with the editing fiasco of A Better Tomorrow II; it’s a talented film that exists in two worlds, one where it was a script meant to be a sappy drama and the other where the rewrites landed it as an action/comedy. One could argue that that duality is reflected in its cast; the laid back, sarcastic tone of Ryan Reynolds forced up against Samuel Jackson’s brazen “fuck you I do what I want” action motif creates a modern day Lethal Weapon, but with way more sass and muthafucka’s, to boot.
Despite the pluses, there were a number of negatives to be had with the film. It felt as if the filmmakers were going for a parody effect by giving the film a 90’s feel to it, but a lot of the brightly lit scenes looked fuzzy and genuinely ugly. I spent a good portion of the film thinking there was a smudge on the lens of my glasses – there wasn’t, and a number of my friends concurred with my observation. That, and Salma Hayek was so detached from the main story that her scenes (minus the incredible bar flashback) felt like they were from a different movie, stitch edited to look like continuity.
Although a flawed genre clash as a whole, the sum of The Hitman’s Bodyguard parts is excellent fun and exactly the kind of mid level entertainment Hollywood should be producing instead of countless big budget reboots and megasized CGI laden franchise pieces.