Long on Action, Short on Substance
The Hitmanís Bodyguard bludgeons its way into theaters with a rapid-fire hail of machine gun bullets and filthy jokes, neither of which is capable of hitting a target with any amount of consistency. Director Patrick Hughes and screenwriter Tom OíConnor were clearly going for one of those mismatched buddy cop flicks of the 90s, but with nothing approaching the sadistic charm of Lethal Weapon or the populist allure of Die Hard, The Hitmanís Bodyguard is just a forgettable, foul-mouthed blood-fest that repeatedly misses the mark with nearly everything it tries to do. Even the occasional bits of charisma shared by leads Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson get lost in generic action trappings and a frantic quest for blood. Itís the perfect example of the bad things that happen when comedy and carnage collide without taking time to make us give a damn about any of it.
Jackson plays lethal hitman Darius Kincaid while Reynolds is Michael Bryce, the vigilant bodyguard hired to protect him at all costs. We learn that if Kincaid agrees to be the star witness against the evil Belarusian tyrant Vladislav Dukhovich (an effective Gary Oldman), Interpol officials will release Kincaidís wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) from jail.
Wait, what? A hitman needs a bodyguard? Why would a hitman need a bodyguard? Well, donít worry yourself too much with the whys. Youíll drive yourself crazy. This one is more about the visual spectacle and aural assault of it all. Cars chases, boat chases, gun fights, knife fights, loud noises, and giant fireball explosions stand in for character, plot, meaning, and substance. Trouble is, even the action sequences are without lasting impact at best and cartoonish at worst. Attempts to mash up non-stop laughs with outrageous action rarely deliver the impact the filmmakers had hoped for.
Reynolds and Jackson do, however, touch on moments of comedic brilliance. Quite often, actually. But itís still not enough. Reynolds is the by-the-book straight man Bryce, a security professional once at the top of his game as a ďTriple-A ratedĒ bodyguard (whatever that means) with everything to prove after a previous job went sour. As the comedic relief is Jacksonís no-holds-barred Kincaid with a lovey-dovey soft spot for his significant other behind bars. Theyíre trying to get from North of London to Amsterdamís Interpol headquarters, but they only have 24 hours to get there. With the clock ticking and their route swarming with an endless supply of machine gun-toting bad guys, will they make it to the trial before Dukhovich is set free?
Though his character is a bit one dimensional, Reynolds certainly delivers by providing a plush punching bag for Jacksonís onslaught of profane insults. No one delivers F-bombs better than Jackson, and his talents are on full display here. In fact, if he doesnít completely steal the entire show, he almost makes it watchable. Almost.
Whatever is saved by Jacksonís gut-busting performance is quickly covered up by Hughesís inability to keep a firm hold on the proceedings. Though he has shown with The Expendables 3 -- and again with this film -- that he is quite adept at action sequence staging, heís equally inept at knowing when enough is enough. While it is always smart to keep the cameras rolling when a couple of comedy powerhouses get in the zone on set, it is equally important to show restraint in the editing bay. Nearly every action and fight sequence in The Hitmanís Bodyguard is way too long. Particularly grueling is a drawn-out boat chase through the canals of Amsterdam that seems to go on forever. An all-too-common example of a film that would benefit from the less-is-more axiom.
The Hitmanís Bodyguard is funny. It is also, at times, exciting and filled with plenty of bold personality. Too bad we just donít give a damn.
(Released by Lionsgate and rated ďRĒ for strong violence and language throughout.)
Review also posted on www.franksreelreviews.com.