The Hitman's Bodyguard

2017-08-18 08:46
 

What it's about:

The world’s top protection agent is called upon to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world’s most notorious hitmen. The relentless bodyguard and manipulative assassin have been on the opposite end of the bullet for years and are thrown together for a wildly outrageous 24 hours. During their raucous and hilarious adventure from England to the Hague, they encounter high-speed car chases, outlandish boat escapades and a merciless Eastern European dictator who’s out for blood.

What we thought:

Take your basic Midnight Run premise, mix it with Deadpool's irreverence (and star) and add some Fast and Furious chase scenes and you have The Hitman's Bodyguard, an unoriginal, silly and way overlong action-comedy that is also frequently funny, effortlessly enjoyable and immensely likeable. 

Ryan Reynolds' career has taken a notable upturn since he donned the red and black suit of Deadpool a couple of years ago to make fun of everything from superhero films to Hugh Jackman to Reynolds himself. Michael Bryce, the bodyguard of the title, isn't quite Deadpool as he doesn't technically have any superpowers, doesn't exactly break the fourth wall and has one or two personality quirks that aren't shared with the Merc With the Mouth but old Wade Wilson is clearly a huge influence on Reynolds' work here – and the film is all the better for it.

At the same time, Darius Kincaid may not be exactly the same as every other good-hearted ass-kicker that Samuel L Jackson has ever played before but this hitman-with-a-conscience does play like an amalgamation of all of Jackson's most enjoyable traits as a legendary screen presence. He's absurdly capable, surprisingly wise, unapologetically romantic and is as quick with his wit as he is with a gun – and, wouldn't you know it, his favourite word ever is, what the BBFC charmingly refers to as, “the oedipal expletive”. Stop me if you've heard this one before.

It's precisely this familiarity that gives the film its oomph. By allowing Reynolds and Jackson to lean into their stereotypical screen personas, while at the same time lightly roasting them, The Hitman's Bodyguard turns what could be a sense of over-familiarity into something that is comfortable on the one hand and subversive on the other. You can't help but like Reynolds and Jackson immediately here and together they spin comedic gold out of their “frienemy” chemistry. But just as you start to feel that the film is leaning too heavily on Reynolds' bemusement at the mayhem that surges around him or Jackson punctuating every second sentence with his trademark catchphrase, something comes along to poke a hole into that sense of familiarity. Reynolds may not break the wall and laugh along with the audience but the film itself certainly does.   

This level of cine-literacy and general smarts would be impressive for even highly respected writers but considering that this sharp, funny script was written by Tom O'Connor whose only other screenwriting credit is for the frankly execrable Fire with Fire (one of those awful “And Bruce Willis” thrillers that has no business troubling cinemas), it's almost miraculous. Sure, much of the heavy-lifting is done by pros like Sam Jackson and Ryan Reynolds but the script here is genuinely impressive – and is one hell of a leap forward for its author. 

Sadly, for all that is great about The Hitman's Bodyguard it never coalesces into a genuinely great film. Its unoriginality and frivolity are undeniable but the biggest problem with the film – even more than the way it barely makes any use of the always fantastic Gary Oldman as a villainous dictator – is that it is, quite simply, much, much, much too long. Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3, Red Hill) does a decent job with the action scenes but he and (presumably) editor Jake Roberts are clearly a bit too in love with the action scenes as they are both too long and too plentiful that they very quickly go from thrilling to monotonous. Frankly, considering his comedic timing here, one has to wonder if the action genre is really the best fit for his talents.

It's a pity. Had the film lost a good twenty minutes to half an hour of its running time, it would be a film to be recommended with little to no reservations. As it is, it's fun and it's funny but, man, does it overstay its welcome.

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