It’s August, and that means we’re entering the second span of doldrums for movie releases for the year (the first being the beginning of the year). From now until late September, when all of the horror films start rolling in, we get studio leftovers and also-rans. It is, however, a great window of opportunity for a gem to crop up without the bluster of summer blockbusters to blow it away.
In most years The Hitman’s Bodyguard probably wouldn’t be that gem, but after a summer of watching action movies that were about as well made as my two-year-old son’s macaroni art projects (oh… you put the glue on the table… interesting artistic choice), it is a surprising breathe of fresh air to find a competently directed, paced, and acted film. Normally, competence is a low bar, but that’s where we’re at.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Director: Patrick Hughes
Release Date: August 17, 2017
The Hintman’s Bodyguard ain’t nothin new. It’s one of those buddy cop assassin movies in the vein of 48 Hrs. where a straight laced guy, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), needs to escort a loudmouth criminal, Darius Kincaid (Jackson), in order to take down an ever worse criminal. In this case that criminal is Gary Oldman playing a dictator with a funny accent, which only adds to the cliche of the whole plot. You know how this goes. Things don’t go to plan, wise-cracking occurs, friendships are made, cars blow up, Salma Hyak curses a lot in Spanish. If you really must know the story, Kincaid is a professional assassin who must get to the Hague to testify against Oldman’s villain, and after INTERPOL is infiltrated Bryce, a down on his luck professional security agent, is the only man for the job.
With films like these its much less about the story and much more about how the two leads play off each other, and if the screenplay gives theme enough to work with. Will they get to their goal on time? It’s almost a certainty. Are we going to enjoy the trip is the real question. Thankfully the casting choices for this movie are perfect because it basically just needs Reynolds to be Reynolds and Jackson to be Jackson. The two play off each other fantastically and are charming as hell. Any scene with them bantering is at the very least fun to watch and at the best times hilarious. They both play well in their overly cliche roles and at times seem to be reveling in the stupid simplicity of every action movie trope they walk into.
Those tropes are actually handled acceptably by director Patrick Hughes, who won’t be winning any awards for his action direction, but also can keep a car chase coherent. That probably shouldn’t be high praise, but after this summer where even the Fast and the Furious failed to hold its car chases together, I’m all set to give him an Oscar. The movie doesn’t have the creativity of Baby Driver, but it at least keeps its pace going and never feels overblown. Part of that might just be the fact that its a lower budget action flick that falls squarely into the B-grade range of film, but credit where credit is due. The fight sequences don’t suck either, though again, they’re just above par. We’re not talking The Raid or anything.
The film does have some tonal problems that stem from the fact that everyone involved is a killer of multiple people in one way or another. While the banter and near-parody love story try to keep things light, there is a running background of a mass-murdering, psychopathic dictator with no qualms about shooting children in the face. It’s no fault of the film’s, since I’m guessing they didn’t plan to have Nazis all over the news the week before release, but set against the backdrop of current events it often seems flippant with the idea of genocide. It will shift dramatically in tone within a single scene, especially near the end when one-liners interrupt photos of mass graves.
I know I may seem like I’m flopping back and forth on this movie, but that’s just because it is such a terribly cliche action flick, and yet it works as it needs to. Maybe I was just let down so much this summer that a return to the tried-and-true action movie formulas of summers gone by just hit the spot. Whatever the reason, I found The Hitman’s Bodyguard to be enjoyable despite the highest compliment I am able to pay it is that it is competent.