Looney tunes. That’s right, looney tunes. It’s the first thing you’ll think of with this live-action Wile E. Coyote homage. It’s mostly guns and explosions but possesses just the right amount of heart to assist the quiet moments and move the plot along between the carnage. For audiences who just want to watch Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds spit-wise, shoot guns, and blow stuff up, The Hitman’s Bodyguard delivers. The plot’s a little thin and the villain is more caricature than full-bodied, but who cares when everyone involved looks to be having so much fun?
Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is one of the world’s best protection agents until a job goes horribly wrong and he loses his Triple-A rating. Darius Kincaid (Jackson) is one of the world’s deadliest assassins and the star witness for Interpol against genocidal dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). When Kincaid’s transport is ambushed, Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel (Daredevil’s Elodie Yung) suspects a mole and calls the only person she knows outside the agency capable of getting Kincaid from England to the International Criminal Court within their 27-hour window – Michael Bryce. There’s just one problem: Bryce and Kincaid have been trying to kill each other for years.. They have to work together as helping Kincaid keep the deal he made with Interpol gives Bryce a shot at getting his rating back.
By all accounts, the Tom O’Connor script feels like it was made with an ’80s movie Mad Lib. Our protagonists must get to [specific location] by [specific time] while they [insert life lesson] and [insert antagonist]. But no one going to see The Hitman’s Bodyguard is expecting a wheel reinvention; they want what’s promised: action and comedy. For that, O’Connor and director Patrick Hughes absolutely deliver. From the jump, Hughes moves the story at a steady clip to introduce Bryce and his world before jumping to Kincaid and introducing his. Neither introduction drags or feels unnecessary, which is especially important since they establish the foundation of the narrative. Granted, much of what makes these characters work is the audience’s own perceptions of these actors: Reynolds continuously plays clever, smart-mouths while Jackson is the epitome of badass. Seeing each actor in their respective roles doesn’t require for them to do much more than follow the rhythmic beats of the script: a conversation here as Intro and some fast hand action there as verse before switching to an explosive bridge and beginning again. It’s a song action fans know well and as it plays throughout all of Hitman, it never gets old.
As mentioned before, much of the success of Hitman falls on the shoulders of Reynolds and Jackson, whose chemistry sizzles. Watching these two experts in the murderous arts bicker like an old married couple never gets old and, for comic book fans, is likely the closest any one will get to seeing Nick Fury and Deadpool on-screen together. Gratefully, this pair makes the most of it, offering an endless supply of smart-ass and expletive-laden quips for audiences to delight in. Interestingly, off-setting the mayhem is a parallel story about love, which both serves to create a fun break in the havoc while also moving the narrative forward. It’s here that Bryce’s past relationship with Yung’s Amelia is explored in contrast to Kincaid’s imprisoned wife Sonia (a fierce Salma Hayek). It’s in these explorations that both Hayek and Yung are given the opportunity to expand their characters beyond that of “romantic object” and present themselves as fierce individuals capable of immense harm, just like their paramours. And for those worried that these explorations create a tonal shift away from the hyper-realistic tone that pervades Hitman, don’t fret – even the quiet, sincere moments involve some sort of absurd bloodshed. While those four are granted opportunities to clarify their characters beyond action tropes, Oldman is short-changed as the one-note Dukhovich whose defiant belief in his right to control his country is about all we get about him. It’s a fine, somewhat engaging performance from Oldman, but there’s nothing new going on beyond his role as the object of opposition.
For once, the marketing doesn’t lie and The Hitman’s Bodyguard is everything you expect: action, comedy, and a little bit of heart. It’s not the greatest action comedy of the year, but it’s not forgettable either thanks to Jackson’s and Reynolds’s undeniable charisma and timing. Audiences will absolutely get their money’s worth as they go on an action-packed adventure that sees Jackson say “mother-f**ker” about as often as bodies hit the floor. And what more can we possibly ask for.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.