Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Sarah Posted by Sarah at August 17, 2017 17:18:40 August 17, 2017 17:18:40

In my Kidnap review, I talked about the Trashy Movie Paradox and how if you want to make a truly trashy movie, you have to commit to the trash. Well, The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t a trashy movie, but it is super, super dumb, and everyone involved commits to the dumbness—and the badness that follows—and it ends up being the kind of dumb-fun action flick Kidnap couldn’t quite manage to be. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson as a couple of private security rivals, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is beamed to us straight from 1997, when actions movies were big and dumb and loud and proud to be big and dumb and loud.

Reynolds is at his best when he’s in action-comedy mode, and Bodyguard plays to his strengths. He stars as Michael Bryce, a “AAA-rated private protection agent”, who quickly loses his fancy rating and fancy suits and fancy car and fancy house—it’s all glass, so you know he’s rich and modern—when one of his clients is improbably killed. Jackson, meanwhile, plays a notorious hitman, Darius Kincaid, who is expected to testify in the trial of a war criminal (Gary Oldman, who does the same generic Eastern European accent for all the generic Eastern European villains he plays). Sam Jackson is in Snakes On A Plane mode.

They have GREAT chemistry, and Bodyguard is at its best when it’s just Reynolds and Jackson stuck together, their characters alternately trying to kill and save each other while racing the clock to Darius’s appointment to testify. Any time the movie veers away from those two, there is a noticeable loss of momentum, even in action sequences. Salma Hayek gets to do some fun plot embroidery as Darius’ wife—she obviously wants to do action and though this role is small it’s WAY better than that Everly trash— but Elodie Yung (Marvel’s Elektra) is utterly pointless as Bryce’s ex-girlfriend.

(Conundrum: We have been and should continue pushing for more female representation in films, but do generic “strong female characters” who are just there to check boxes, which is the case with Young in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, actually help? Young is just window dressing for a story that does not require her presence. Does this count, or should we be more specific and demand not only more roles, but BETTER ones, too?)

The best thing about Bodyguard is that it knows exactly how dumb it is and it never tries to be anything other than a dumb-fun action movie. And it is VERY committed to its Nineties aesthetic, down to obvious green screen backgrounds and a f*cking awful screaming death metal score (courtesy Atli Örvarsson). The one thing that doesn’t fit is the shaky cam and quick-cut editing, which is more circa 2002, and also, unfortunately, renders some action sequences virtually incoherent.

This style is starting to look really dated, and there is potential for some of these scenes to be much more impressive—especially a close-quarters fight in a restaurant kitchen—but the photography and editing ruin it. It doesn’t kill the movie, but only because Bodyguard isn’t trying to be artsy-cool in the way of John Wick or Atomic Blonde, or viscerally realistic like anything coming out of Indo-Asian action cinema right now. If it did have pretensions to anything greater, such bad camerawork and editing would be outright disastrous. As is, it’s just sort of charmingly sh*tty in the same way the plot is charmingly sh*tty.

You’re not going to be mad watching The Hitman’s Bodyguard on a plane. You won’t be mad watching it on cable on a Saturday afternoon while folding laundry. But you might be mad about paying money for it in theaters this weekend, if only because there is a better option in Logan Lucky. But as an action movie that throws back to a time when action movies didn’t also have to be superheroes or revenge thrillers, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is brainless, dumb-fun escapism as its stupid best.



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