Had The Hitman’s Bodyguard been made in the mid to late 1990s, it may well have involved three of the performers present. We have Samuel L. Jackson as one of the co-leads. There’s Gary Oldman overacting his tail off as the main baddie. And Salma Hayek adds a sassy flavor as a love interest. There would be no Ryan Reynolds, who would have been in his late teens or early 20s at the time. Instead, maybe Bruce Willis or Kurt Russell could have filled his role.
As such, the three actors mentioned are a bit older and filling parts we’ve seen them cast in before. Bodyguard is joyfully R rated, filled with action genre familiarities, and (to use a reviewer’s cliche) it hits the mark sporadically. Reynolds is Michael Bryce, former CIA officer and triple A rated executive protection officer. What is exactly gives one the distinction of being triple A rated in this particular field? None of the other character seem to know, but he seems supremely confident in the designation. Essentially, he’s good at not letting the people he protects (some of whom are nefarious types) die.
His unblemished record is thwarted early here and his career goes down the tubes. Bryce gets back in the game a couple years later when notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Jackson) needs a protector. He’s been imprisoned for some time and he’s a key government witness against a foreign dictator (Oldman) for his many crimes. There’s a whole army of the dictator’s henchmen who wish to keep Kincaid from the witness stand.
Much of the action here takes place in Amsterdam as Bryce tries to get his subject to The Hague to testify. Our two leads have a checkered history together and getting them to work together doesn’t come easily. Bryce believes his protection methods work best (don’t kill anyone) while Kincaid feels differently (kill everyone). The comedic banter between Reynolds and Jackson works well much of the time as they try to one up each other in their work.
Both principal’s have ladies in their lives. Elodie Yung is Bryce’s ex who he still can’t let go of. Hayek is Kincaid’s wife, apparently jailed simply due to her association with her hubby. Her character rivals his in their extreme use of the word mother****er, which had basically become Jackson’s catchphrase in countless pictures.
Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes keeps Bodyguard charging along with action set pieces that are competent and pretty much instantly forgettable. We get some backstory of the pair and how they met their women. This is done so in flashback sequences that are a bit superfluous and complete with ironically cliched song choices. For someone who’s played some very memorable villains, Oldman’s screen time is too limited to make much impact.
The stars of The Hitman’s Bodyguard certainly keep it watchable and there’s a select few genuinely funny moments splattered around the cartoonish mayhem. On the other hand, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Jackson have appeared in violent flicks before that you’ll remember in the morning. That doesn’t quite hold true here.
**1/2 (out of four)