The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung, Salma Hayek
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout
1 hr., 58 min.
As the dog days of summer wane, big screen diversions are always welcome. That’s what The Hitman’s Bodyguard is: a simple diversion or, more alliteratively, bullets, blood, bodies, bad words and bankable stars. That pretty much sums it up in a shell casing.
There’s a story, of course. Ryan Reynolds is Michael Bryce, an ex-CIA, formerly triple-A rated, international protection professional. He finds himself guarding the life of a paid assassin, Darius Kincaid, played by the king of movie swearing, Samuel L. Jackson.
Jackson is not a one-note performer; he’s intense and nuanced. Gifted. His nimbleness with obscenities, however, is beyond that of any other working actor. Jackson’s cursing is epic, metaphysical, almost melodic, flowing as if rapids were compound words, crashing against the rocks and tossing some poor kayaker into the drink. And it creates laughs. His cussing is even funny when his films reach TV, and cleaner words have been dubbed in. As amusing as The Hitman’s Bodyguard is, it has the potential to be funnier on basic cable, as the inappropriate words are replaced with non-sequiturs like Mamma-Jamma, Melon-Feeler and my personal favorite, Mutual-Funder, as in, “Gimme my money, Mutual-Funder!”
The movie begins with an unusual greeting from director Patrick Hughes, who does imitations of his two stars, complete with Jackson’s favorite compound word. From that point on, you get the sense that all will be tongue-in-cheek, ultra-violent and definitely not for the pious and prim. A big giveaway is the promotional poster, with Reynolds carrying Jackson as Kevin Costner held the late Whitney Houston in 1992’s The Bodyguard. It’s action and laughs.
Jackson’s imprisoned hitman, Kincaid, is prevailed upon to testify at The Hague against a freshly toppled Belarusian dictator, played by Gary Oldman with just enough menace, as usual. This cruel, iron-fisted despot looks nothing like the autocrat he’s based on, but you’ll make your own judgments. In return for his testimony, Kincaid wants his wife, Sonia, released from prison. Salma Hayek is Sonia, salty-tongued in two languages, looking more awesome than a prisoner should. Obscenities spew out of her mouth that, were cussing an Olympic competition, would win the silver behind Jackson’s gold.
There you have it. Ryan Reynolds handles the snark and sarcasm, Samuel L. Jackson adds his humor, his cursing and his lethal stare. Salma Hayek’s obvious assets and Gary Oldman’s psychotic, former-Soviet-satellite tyrant pretty much flesh out the plot. Oh, there is a love story. Reynolds’ Bryce lost a client, his triple-A protection rating and his Interpol officer lover, Amelia (Elodie Yung), all at the same time, to a bullet two years before. While he protects Kincaid, he tries to find a way to win Amelia back.
I believe we started with the word diversion. With Hughes directing and a script by Tom Connor, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is nothing more than that: A couple of hours in England and Holland with a cavalcade of crashes, an astounding body count, pulverizing profanities and, honestly, quite a few laughs. With their chemistry in this limited flick, one wonders what Reynolds and Jackson could do with a film intended for more than a simple (if entertaining) night out at the movies.
It would have been fun to read more deeply into Oldman’s dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich, and wring out his parallels with reality, but any enjoyment derived from The Hitman’s Bodyguard is through laughs and adrenaline. It’s best that the depth be left for another project. Until such a time, and if you’re of a mind, settle back, feast on a snack, watch the vehicles fly through the air, and gird yourself for cussing on a Herculean scale.