About 15 minutes into The Hitman’s Bodyguard, you know exactly what kind of movie you’re going to get. We’re introduced to the main players, what makes them tick, and the conflict therein. It’s one of those movies that’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, and that’s perfectly fine. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Elodie Yung, Gary Oldman, and Richard E. Grant, it’s very title serves as an explanation of the plot: Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a “Triple-A Certified” bodyguard who falls into disrepair after losing a client. He’s then hired – well, coerced would be more apropos – into taking Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to The Hague to testify against former dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Bryce and Kincaid have a brutal rivalry as they’re on opposite sides of the law, with Bryce being a bodyguard and Kincaid being the eponymous hitman.
As the main players are introduced in textbook fashion, their character traits are on such a potent display that the film may as well had done a freeze frame with identification cards for each character. Bryce is a stickler for order, Kincaid flies by the seat of his pants, Dukhovich is ruthless, and everyone else is window dressing. But, let’s be honest, we’re all watching this movie for three reasons: the banter between Reynolds and Jackson, the action scenes, and how many times Jackson can say “motherfucker”. This film delivers all of the aforementioned in spades. Reynolds and Jackson play incredibly well off each other, and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if almost all of their interactions were ad-libbed. The action scenes are very well done, although it does have its fair amount of cuts to hide the fact that the 68-year-old Jackson is not jumping all over the place. Gary Oldman is good as the brutal dictator Dukhovich, but it’s almost as if he was told that he was in an entirely different movie than what we got, because he has his acting turned to 11.
The other actors are present only as either a caricature (Salma Hayek has a virtually forgettable part as Kincaid’s wife), an exposition dump (Elodie Yung as Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel – whose character has a history with Bryce), or a walking spoiler (one of which I will not mention). The film was directed by Patrick Hughes, whose only directorial credits of note are The Expendables 3 and a movie called Red Hill. The paint-by-numbers script is by Tom O’Connor, and it was notable for being on the 2011 Black List – a survey of well-liked scripts that hadn’t been produced yet. They’re both fine, but they know when to get out of the way of their more vocal stars. The Atli Orvarsson score sounds like a Mark Mancina knock-off with no memorable cues of note.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a film that knows what it’s aiming for, and for all intents and purposes, it hits the mark. It lasted about twenty minutes too long, but it’s certainly something that’s worth at least one viewing during a matinee screening.