2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a solid action-comedy/road trip hybrid that uses the absolute best of its talented cast to craft a highly rewatchable story. Leads Ryan Reynolds (Free Guy) and Samuel L. Jackson (Basic) have the kind of chemistry that pops off the screen, making their odd couple scenario under heightened circumstances a little endearing. It makes sense that a sequel would be greenlit, and greenlit it was, and it hit theaters June 2021. With director Patrick Hughes and original writer Tom O’Connor also returning, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard sounds ripe for a bombastic and hilarious good time. By my estimation, all the individual pieces are rock solid, but their placement left much to be desired as the action was rote, callback jokes/references from the first are eye-rollingly bad, and the individual motivations for the central three characters are heightened merely because the script demands it. While the film can be enjoyed as a cinematic confection, the flavor of the original is all but absent.
Since their adventure at The Hague, unlicensed bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) and hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson) may not be spending any time together, but that’s not stopping Darius from haunting Bryce’s subconscious. It’s so bad that Bryce’s therapist recommends that he go on a sabbatical from bodyguarding while he awaits word on whether the license review board will reinstate him. Just as he curls up with a book while on vacation, Darius’s wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) appears, guns akimbo, demanding that Bryce help her save Darius from kidnappers. Though less than eager to help, Bryce does, inadvertently step into a situation with global ramifications.
Look, I’m on record already from the theatrical release expressing my disappointment in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. If you haven’t seen the film and would like to know my spoiler-free thoughts, I recommend checking that out. Otherwise, moving forward, there will be spoilers.
On the whole, with two views under my belt, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (HWB) is certainly a Hollywood picture made for the summer. It’s got big stars doing crazy things under ridiculous circumstances. Granted, it underuses most of them in favor of putting all the shine on the three leads (Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek) and the bulk of the film is mostly forgettable, but it is a pleasant distraction in that the cast is obviously having a great time. Plus, who doesn’t love a cinematic reuniting of Hayek and Antonio Banderas?! The thing is, though, that the whole of HWB suffers from sequelitis. It goes bigger and badder when, in the words of Bryce himself, “boring is always better.” Take Hayek’s Sonia: first presented in Hitman’s Bodyguard, she’s about as vicious a woman as can be expected for a hitman’s equally lethal spouse, but, rather than play on her skilled abilities, the majority of her character is boiled down to her age and her looks. I get that everything is up for grabs with this crew and nothing is sacred, but the jokes on Salma’s Sonia especially are focused on her looks and her supposed insanity. Two jokes. That’s it for the entire film. The same goes for Ryan’s Michael (metaphysically flaccid) and Jackson’s Darius (perpetually cruel), building a film around the notion that these are horrible people, basically ineffectual at every aspect of their lives. One of the things I love about the first film is how the foundation of the two central characters is based on a philosophically opposing view of the world: Darius kills bad guys; Michael protects everyone. There was a moral code that went with their equal skill and ability. Yet, this film removes all of the thoughtfulness, makes Darius an unrepentant jackass, and neuters Michael for the sake of what? According to the featurette “Gone Soft: The New Michael Bryce,” the idea was to explore what kind of trauma the character may be feeling in the aftermath of the first story and, in doing that, they could unhinge the follow-up. Except the two characters look nothing alike in action or word. I have zero issue with Michael feeling vulnerable after being shot for the first time, but that’s not where his issue is rooted in the film. Nor is there any mention of the love of his life that the first film wouldn’t stop focusing on. The film is described as “Three Stooges with bullets” in featurette “Ryan, Sam, Salma: One F’d Up Family,” but even the Stooges followed their own internal rules.
One thing I am impressed with regarding HWB is that there are four featurettes and a gag reel on the home release, making for nearly 30 minutes of special features. In an industry that’s slowly fading these out, it’s honestly nice to get something that’s more than a four-minute highlight reel of the cast and crew. In these, you actually get some sense of what making the film was like, how the cast views their characters from one film to another, what it was like for newer cast members to work with the original group, and more. No joke, it’s refreshing to have this much material to extend the viewing experience on a new home release.
I’ll be the first to admit there’s nothing wrong with mindless entertainment. Some of my favorite films from Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek would fit nicely into that category. Thing is, few of them are as mean-spirited as HWB is. So while there are aspects that are fun (I really do like Morgan Freeman in this; the bit with decoys near the end is darkly hilarious, and the bit on the yacht is great), a lot of the comedy just comes from belittling someone else. In criticism, one should always review the film in front of them, not the film they want the film to be. In this case, this film eschews what made the first film unique and fun for something that brings down franchises. More does not equal better. But, if you dug it, at least you’ve got some decent bonus features to extend the experience.
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard Special Features:
- Ryan, Sam, Salma: One F’d Up Family (9:09)
- Gone Soft: The New Michael Bryce (7:21)
- Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard: #stuntlife” (7:47)
- On the Set of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (4:02)
- Gag Reel (4:40)
- Theatrical Trailers
Available on digital July 23rd, 2021
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD August 17th, 2021.