“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is a buddy action comedy that passes chemistry, masters physics — the chases and fights are epic — and then stumbles into all these off-the-curriculum potholes.
It’s morally indefensible — glibly dispatching hundreds of killers, cops and innocent bystanders in Britain and and The Netherlands. Characters boast of their kill-counts, mathletes of murder and mayhem. And add to all this singing and heartfelt discussions of love, relationships and commitment.
Is it fun? Well, yeah — dumb summer action fun, our last real dose of it this season
Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds and Salma Hayek serve up a symphony of profanity as a hitman/trial-witness, his “AAA-rated executive protective agent” (bodyguard) and the imprisoned wife of the hitman.
Hayek in particular curses a blue (azul) streak in English and Spanish, threatening one and all and giving our mass-murderer-for-hire his best nickname — “cucaracha,” “cockroach.” As in “un-killable.:
To Reynolds’ Michael Bryce, Darius Kincaid is “a coffin magnet,” not to mention the guy who ruined “mother-f—er for EVERYbody” (true enough).
Gary Oldman plays a murderous Belarusian dictator — And how many actors would polish their Russian to this degree for a role this small? — on trial at The Hague. The hitman is the one witness who can put him away for crimes against humanity.
The Belarusian’s many minions don’t want Interpol to deliver this witness from Manchester to the courtroom in The Netherlands.
Bryce comes in because Interpol has a mole and Bryce’s ex (Elodie Yung) summons him so that he can get back his AAA rating, which he lost, along with her, after failing to protect a polygamous Japanese arms dealer years before.
Bryce is a meticulous planner — “Prepare for a test and there are NO surprises.” Darius Kincaid is a cackling crack shot, an impulsive improviser who is philosophical as a mother-f—er.
“You can’t prepare for EVERYthing. Life is going to bloody us up.”
Screenwriter Tom O’Connor was going for “Pulp Fiction” meets “Grosse Pointe Blank.” The murderous enmity/respect of the leading characters, the flippant insertion of discussions of the heart in between shootouts and in the middle of chases, is cute, but not cleverly-scripted enough to not take us out of the picture more than once.
Because the basic business at hand is action. Jackson is 68, and moves like it in a few unguarded/stuntman-free moments. But the action beats, and his facial reactions to them, are a sight to see.
Stunt co-coordinator Kevin Beard and “Expendables 3” director Patrick Hughes stage a breathless sprint through Amsterdam that would put James Bond to shame. There’s the odd digital explosion/tire on fire shot that shows the fakery. But the brawls are believable, even if Jackson’s “bullet-proof” character’s survival of every hail of bullets he dodges are not.
But what puts it over — when it works — is that chemistry, and nobody is better at the annoyed double-take than Reynolds, and Jackson — singing at every opportunity, here — can be downright delightful, when he’s not doing the “game face” lean, mean killing machine thing.
A sing-along with a busload of singing Italian nuns may be the funniest scene Samuel L. has ever chewed up.
Laugh-out-loud funny? Yes. It’s just a pity that the “more is better” bodycount sours the picture long before its drawn-out ending spoils the punchline.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung
Credits:Directed by Patrick Hughes, script by Tom O’Connor. A Summit/Millennium release.
Running time: 1:58