Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is not only a bodyguard: he’s the best in the business. Or, at least he was until one of his clients got shot in the head while waiting for his private jet to take off. Now Bryce is stuck escorting paranoid bankers and middle-management types around, which nets him significantly less pay than working for corporate tycoons and international arms dealers. But his luck might change if he accepts a job from his former girlfriend Amelia (Élodie Yung) to escort world-renowned assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) from his English prison to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to testify against former Belarussian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). That is, if the two of them don’t kill each other first.
Simply put, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is, overall, a B-grade action/comedy, with the major exception of Reynolds and Jackson. Frankly, both of them seem to be much better actors than this movie deserves to have, and the film’s $30 million budget (paltry by Hollywood standards) shows that both of them were working on the cheap for this film. The reason will probably never be known (my guess is they thought it would be fun), but it does pay off for the movie. If you’ve ever wanted to watch the two of them to play exaggerated versions of their most famous character archetypes for two hours and crack stupid jokes and shoot people in the head the whole time, this is your movie. Jackson channels every action character he’s ever portrayed, from Jules Winnfield to Nick Fury to that character from Snakes on a Plane, and Reynolds is essentially Deadpool but without the fourth wall breaking. Their banter and chemistry with each other is by far the best element of the film.
The other element which is better than its summer action competition is the chase scenes. Although the movie’s gunfights are pretty par for the course for action films, the chase scenes are much more creative and interesting to watch. Particular kudos goes to a dramatic car-motorcycle-speed boat chase through the streets and canals of Amsterdam and an awesome sequence where a car gets slammed by a semi-truck in mid-air. It’s not quite as good a car movie as Baby Driver, but other action movies could stand to learn a thing or two from the chase choreography here.
But apart from this, the film is just a generic action-comedy. The plot is derivative and predictable, the dialogue is standard action film fare, and the fight sequences are pretty average. Gary Oldman chews the scenery as the antagonist of a rejected Die Hard script, but apparently he couldn’t keep a Belarussian accent and had to be dubbed over in certain scenes. Salma Hayek appears in the film as Kincaid’s wife, but she is vastly underutilized and is in far too few scenes. And most perplexing of all is the film’s insistence in shoving a trite romantic subplot down our throats. Because when someone goes to see a mediocre action movie like this, what they really want to hear is relationship advice from Samuel L. Jackson.
So if you want to see a discount Expendables where Deadpool teams up with every Jackson character whose every third sentence includes the phrase “mother fucker”, than boy do I have the film for you. Otherwise, this is the sort of movie that can probably wait until it’s on Netflix.