Mark Reviews Movies

The Hitman's Bodyguard


1 Star (out of 4)

Director: Patrick Hughes

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Elodie Yung, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida, Tine Joustra, Yuri Kolokolnikov, 

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence and language throughout)

Running Time: 1:58

Release Date: 8/18/17

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 17, 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard is an ugly, repetitive, and nihilistic piece of supposed entertainment. Its so-called jokes fall into two categories: yelling and violence. In between killing a bunch of people, two men who hate each other constantly yell at one another. The people are mostly goons of the fictional dictator of a real Eastern European country (a very, very strange decision), so by the movie's logic, the violence is fine. Maybe it is, but it also feels disingenuous that the movie takes such glee in the substantial bloodletting.

It might work if our protagonists had some redeemable qualities, but they don't. One is a disgraced security professional, who lost a client to a sniper's round and, since then, has been taking clients of less renown or infamy. The other is a professional assassin, who, by his own count, has killed at least 250 people. It's OK, though, because all of them were bad guys—again, by his accounting.

The assassin makes the moral argument that, between him and the security guy, he's the good guy. After all, he kills bad people, while his unwilling and unwelcome partner protects them. This seems a strange argument to make, especially considering the obvious third option: Neither of these two is a good guy.

Lest one think this is a broad condemnation of the concept of an anti-hero, it's not. Yes, they are anti-heroes by the definition of the term, and the movie doesn't hide that fact. That's not the problem. The problem is that they're both dull and unappealing anti-heroes, despite the fact that they're played by Ryan Reynolds, the current Hollywood jester of sarcasm, and Samuel L. Jackson, the perpetual king of cool. It's difficult to believe that at least one of them couldn't make something of material like this. Well, neither one does, because they're just here to play characters who kill a bunch of people and yell at each other.

Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is the security professional, and Darius Kincaid (Jackson) is the hitman. Kincaid has some dirt on Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), the dictator of Belarus who's on trial for human rights violations at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Here's where the screenplay by Tom O'Connor makes its biggest error. Dukhovich is a genocidal monster, whom we meet in a scene during which he murders family of a school teacher who has been speaking out against him. The climax involves pictures of Dukhovich participating in a mass murder.

We're supposed to be outraged at this violence (which is never shown, by the way) but take some sort of enjoyment out of the rest of it (which is shown in blood-splattered-on-the-camera detail). There's a drastic tonal shift whenever Dukhovich appears on screen (with Oldman doing a generic dialect that makes the language sound improvised: "Backup plan" just sounds like "plan B" said in an accent). Given the constant attempts to have a good time with everything else, the genocide, murder, and torture perpetrated by the villain and his mercenaries are in bad taste—evil that's thoughtless because it's a requirement of the plot.

As for the rest, it wears thin almost immediately. After the Interpol convoy transporting Kincaid is ambushed by Dukhovich's goons, Bryce and Kincaid have to work together to get the assassin from London to court in The Hague, so that he can testify before an absurd deadline.

It's a road trip story, basically, in which the two guys hate each other but grow to respect each other by the end. Plenty of flashbacks try to make them more sympathetic (In another move of bad taste, Kincaid's first killing is given the weight of avenging racist violence), but it doesn't work. Both of them have love interests, just to show that someone can kind of put up with them. Kincaid's wife (played by Salma Hayek) is in prison, and her voice adds yet another character to yell at people (A flashback shows that she's as bloodthirsty as her husband, and naturally, it's played as a gag). Bryce was in a relationship with an Interpol agent (played by Elodie Yung), and he deals with the fact that he still has feelings for her in the only way he knows how—like a child.

There are a lot of missed opportunities in The Hitman's Bodyguard, and one of the sadder ones is that there's a chase in the middle of the movie—on the streets and down a canal of Amsterdam—that, conceptually, is pretty inventive. Needless to say, if director Patrick Hughes can't handle the simple humor and tone of this thing, he definitely doesn't get the chase right, either.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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