In 2017, I called The Hitman’s Bodyguard “super, super dumb”, “charmingly sh*tty”, and “brainless, dumb-fun escapism at its best”. Through commitment to a dumb premise and solid chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, The Hitman’s Bodyguard propelled itself to blockbuster status, an increasingly rare achievement for wholly original ideas in blockbuster cinema. The inevitable sequel has now arrived as The Hitman’s Wife's Bodyguard, a movie that promotes Salma Hayek’s cameo character in the first film to a co-lead, and that, as most sequels do, doubles down on all the wrong things and makes for a screamingly loud, completely nonsensical, decidedly un-fun trip to the movies. Whatever charm The Hitman’s Bodyguard mustered almost in spite of itself, Wife wastes completely. This is an intolerable movie to sit through.
It is physically painful to watch a trio of actors as talented as Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek try as hard as they do for such little reward. Reynolds returns as Michael Bryce, a “triple-A” bodyguard who is trying to get his license back after the events of the first film. Jackson is back as hitman Darius Kincaid, and Hayek plays his con artist wife, Sonia (who does no cons). Screenwriter Tom O’Connor once again pens the script, with an assist from Brandon Murphy and Phillip Murphy, director Patrick Hughes also returns, as does composer Atli Örvarsson with another migraine-inducing score. With so much of the original creative team back—though Wife boasts new editors, Michael Duthie and Jack Hutchings, and a new cinematographer, Terry Stacey—you’d think Wife could muster some, if not all of the magic formula from the first film. You would be wrong! While Wife benefits from axing the disposable girlfriend character (played by Eloide Yung), it suffers for promoting Salma Hayek to a lead role.
This is nothing against Hayek, who is putting way more effort than is deserved into such a shallow, stereotypical role as Sonia. Hayek is obviously having fun with the action stuff, but even in large-scale shootout scenes, she never stops being a literal screaming stereotype of the “fiery Latina”. She deserves better! We the audience deserve better! And it’s such a wasted opportunity because Sonia is a con artist, but her idea of a con is just to don a bad wig. We should be enjoying watching Hayek shed personas like snake skins as Sonia traipses across Europe—well, mostly just Italy—trying to save Darius from a Greek shipping magnate (played by a half-awake Antonio Banderas who cannot be bothered to put in any effort, but frankly, I don’t blame him, this material doesn’t deserve him, either). But instead, we get an interminable hundred minutes of Sonia screaming at everyone and everything as if her idea of a con is just to scream until she gets what she wants. Also, it boggles the mind that this movie is less than two hours, it FEELS like it will never end.
The first movie floats on the chemistry of Reynolds and Jackson, a classic cinematic odd couple who have great action-comedy personas but who work on different frequencies. Reynolds’ silver-tongue talking schtick plays well off Jackson’s blunter approach to dialogue, but Wife splits them up for much of the film, with Reynolds spending the first half of the movie with Hayek. Their vibe is not very fun, as Sonia is not an enjoyable character, and Michael mostly just begs to be left alone to tend his mental health (there is a serious disconnect between this movie’s mocking attitude toward mental health awareness and Reynolds’ off-screen advocacy for same). When Darius shows up, things don’t really improve, as Jackson and Hayek don’t have good chemistry, so Sonia and Darius are not believable or entertaining as a passionate couple who can’t keep their hands off each other, and Jackson and Reynolds mostly talk around each other in scenes, not to each other.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the kind of schlock you can enjoy on a Saturday afternoon, but I cannot imagine the circumstance in which The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard would be enjoyable. It’s brutally loud, offensive in the lazy way, and the “humor” never rises above the level of Hayek shrieking Spanish swears at people. The Hitman’s Bodyguard had a clever sort of self-awareness that fit into the dumb-fun gems of the 1990s, but this movie is an empty vessel. It’s not even that it feels like everyone is just killing time—except for Antonio Banderas, he always looks like he just checked his watch—because there is a sense that Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek enjoy each other. But Hayek and Jackson can’t muster sexy, let alone believable, romantic chemistry, and Reynolds feels particularly stranded by a cruel storyline. The Hitman’s Bodyguard had a glimmer of something that worked, but The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is basically a lesson in everything not to do when making a sequel.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is in theaters from June 16.