One of the best bits in The Hitman’s Bodyguard comes when the script tries to pull off one of the worst plot reveals of all time. Like, someone admits to being the reason behind someone else’s downfall and I’m not sure why I’m trying to keep it secret. It’s the most obvious twist of all time. I’m talking around it here; but when a film be about a bodyguard who loses his business in the opening minutes when a client is assassinated; and an assassin. It ain’t hard to put two and two together.
When the film hit this beat it’s perfunctory but we get to see Sam Jackson and Ryan Reynolds performing it. Sure, Reynolds has been going all hard recently but he has the doughiest, softest, squishiest face you ever saw, all Jackson has to do to make it work is play his disbelief. ‘I thought you knew the whole time!’ He shouts. ‘It was obvious!’ The film gets all of its best moments this way, when Reynolds’ Michael Bryce is trying his best at cynicism but has a little too much puppy dog in his eyes for it to be completely believable, and Jackson’s Darius Kincaid is poking at it, daring it to bite.
So why don’t the film realise it? I understand that in a comedy action picture you gotta spend a lot of time crafting that action, but the film neglects its characters something awful. It whips and zips around until it gotta make do with two actors in a room together and then all of a sudden the frame turns into the most thudding, clumsy thing; showcasing these actors wit and chemistry with all the grace of a hastily produced soap opera. Whole scenes undertaken with the most minimal coverage possible.
I get it, word is that this weren’t a comedy basically until they started rehearsals. It easy to feel that tension in there, some sequences clearly having been planned out while it was still gonna be serious. Says a lot that for an action-comedy there very little comedy in the action. I know we can’t all be Jackie Chan or Harold Lloyd but director Patrick Hughes’ go to trick is just cutting to his actors gurning faces as everything plays out.
There’s late on in the film a remarkable piece of business where Reynold’s can’t reach his gun in order to execute a man he’s strangling anyway. I think it is supposed to play for laughs but just comes across more than a little unhinged. It just can’t glue these two films it’s trying to be together. The worst is Gary Oldman who’s stuck in this role as an Eastern European dictator, on trial at The Hague for the human rights violations of his people, which includes (but is not limited to) literal genocide. Y’all can tell what a barrel of laughs this dude is gonna be.
Yeah, everything with him in it is a total downer. It’s not the actors’ fault, it was already too late by the time they were in the room, they just doing their best. It’s hard for them to exist in this new film, especially when you start looking at the elements that you know were crafted with comedy in mind. There’s this introduction with the legendary Richard E. Grant who owns literally every second he on screen, and the introduction of Salma Hayek as Jackson’s wife who does the same.
Her role, as well as that of Élodie Yung as Amelia (Reynold’s ex) is to sit outta harm’s way while the boys fix everything up for them. See, Jackson is willing to testify against Oldman in exchange for his wife’s pardon. While MI6 is transporting him from Manchester to the Netherlands they are attacked by Oldman’s men. Figuring there’s a mole in the agency she decides it’s safest for her to get a disinterested party to manage the transport, so she calls her ex to carry it out while she recuses herself. Wow, that’s a great way for you to rid yourself of all them pesky women, good job screenplay.
As our two boys travel across the country and outwit Russian troops they discuss love mainly. Which, thinking about it is a real weird way for this to swing. I guess it’s fairly classic, the dysfunctional guy who got his life together and the neurotic one who can’t hold a relationship. With their partners so far outta the picture though it brings up this tension that the film be way too straight to deal with. When do we get the film where these two characters can just make out? They so right for each other.
Even if it had happened, I’m betting it probably wouldn’t have looked very hot. The film is one of the most bizarrely ugly I’ve seen in a while. There’s this artificial glow that creeps into every scene. It plays havoc with the characters too, Reynolds far too often looks like some freaky plastic mannequin. It’s the worst when they’re doing greenscreen work, so obvious. Oh, and way too much of it sounds off too. I ain’t just taking about Atli Örvarsson insipid score, but there’s this real muddy quality to all the sound throughout.
It’s really quite boring and unappealing to look at and listen to for the most part. There gotta come a point where you just have to hold that against a film. It’s this sagging, indecisive mess that is being barely held together by the strength of its leads. It makes for a movie with a lot of strange interesting tension; but really, I’d have just preferred these two be in a better movie.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is currently screening in UK cinemas