hitman's wife's bodyguard salma hayek samuel l. jackson ryan reynolds

Salma Hayek and demented jokes almost save Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson offer more of the same in this action-comedy sequel.

The original Hitman’s Bodyguard was the kind of junky, disposable action movie that has slowly disappeared from the cinematic landscape in the last few years. It was, by virtue of being an original (as in not based on a previous IP) and somewhat conservatively budgeted R-rated movie, a sight for sore eyes — but it also sucked something fierce. With few original ideas and a lot of scattershot, hacky humour, The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a fairly disposable bit of post-Deadpool ironic posturing that I have very little recollection of.

I’ll start with the bad news, then: its sequel, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, suffers from pretty much all of the same problems. It’s lazily written, relying heavily on florid profanity (calling people “shitwaffles” and other things of that nature) as the catch-all for humour; its action scenes are of highly variable quality, its overqualified cast is mostly wasted in roles that only require them to yell the aforementioned edgelord one-liners at top volume and its generic European settings are hardly exploited to their fullest potential. Everything that was wrong with The Hitman’s Bodyguard is also wrong with Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. But the sequel actually significantly improves on its predecessor by spreading the wealth to Salma Hayek and leaning harder on the comedy to the (welcome) detriment of more anonymous action.

This film finds former top bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) in a deep funk following the events of the first film. Having lost his licence due to the shenanigans of that particular adventure, he now questions his place in the world by taking a sabbatical in which he vows to no longer use guns. This lasts about half a millisecond when he’s approached by Sonia Kincaid (Hayek), wife of problematic buddy Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), who has been kidnapped by mobsters. Mere seconds after rescuing Darius, the terrible threesome find themselves caught by an interpol agent played by Frank Grillo, who harvests their particular set of skills to hunt down a Greek billionaire terrorist mastermind named Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas) who has, as you may have guessed, nefarious plans in mind. 

In most senses, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is the same kind of movie as its predecessor: a loud and sometimes incoherent action movie in which the roles have been tailored to the leads’ strengths to the point where absolutely nothing surprising comes out of either Reynolds’ or Jackson’s mouths for the entire runtime of the film. The action scenes are generally chaotic and often involve elaborate pratfalls for Reynolds, whose role as a comic foil has been exacerbated here since Hayek and Jackson share the indomitable badass duties interchangeably.

It’s the addition of Hayek, however, that gives the film the most juice. Often underserved in comic roles (mainly because they tend to be in dogshit such as Like a Boss, the Grown Ups movie or whatever the hell Drunk Parents is), Hayek may not be given the wittiest dialogue here but she certainly sells it as if it were. Much of the pleasures of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard comes from watching Hayek do the exact same shit the other two dudes do. Her casting, while not exactly off-the-wall stunt casting, is still original enough to make the whole endeavour somewhat less painful and canned as before.

It also helps that the humour is slightly more elevated and psychotic this time around. Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard leans harder into the comedy portion of its action-comedy structure, pushing some gags past their breaking point and into leftfield non-sequitur material. Granted, it’s not great shakes — there are still lots of gags that are mostly just stating the obvious at top volumes — but moving the material into a zone of self-awareness bordering on the parodic (which goes hand in hand with the frankly baffling late-in-the-game addition of Morgan Freeman for no discernable reason other than he probably needed the money) actually benefits the general ironic po-mo detachment that comes pre-packaged with the involvement of Ryan Reynolds in just about anything these days.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is a film of altogether limited pleasures — an amiable timewaster that mainly serves as a vehicle for the comedic talents of two actors who have absolutely nothing left to prove in the world of yelling humorous one-liners at top volume while firing guns in the other direction. There isn’t much to glean from the plot or even the action scenes, which come pre-stamped with the Millennium Films seal of approval when it comes to barreling through picturesque European locations. Yet, as far as these things go, you could do worse. In fact, they did worse just a few years ago — it was called The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is in Montreal theatres now. Watch the trailer here:

Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek and Ryan Reynolds star in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

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