The latest in the long line of oil-and-water “buddy” flicks, The Hitman’s Bodyguard doesn’t bring much new to the table, but thanks to the undeniable chemistry between its stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, it emerges from the weekend as a surprisingly decent and ultimately worthwhile film. It’s as funny as it is loud and crazy (and it’s definitely all of that), feeling a bit like a modern-day mash-up of Midnight Run and Lethal Weapon, even though it’s as predictable as they come, with an equal level of direction.

Reynolds is Michael Bryce, a high-level private bodyguard for some of the world’s worst criminals, including arms dealers and smugglers. When his latest client is assassinated right under his nose in London, Michael (and his career) goes into a tailspin, leaving him with nothing to do but protect slimy corporate honchos—that is until his ex, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), is forced to give him a call to help with her latest mission. She needs to safely transport hitman Darius Kinkaid (Jackson) to The Hague so he can testify against former Belarus dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), but Interpol has been compromised, so there’s no one besides Michael whom she can trust.

Unfortunately Michael and Darius have a long history as bitter adversaries (Darius is generally the one trying to kill Michael’s clients), so there’s no chance the transport will be an easy ride. Couple that with the fact that Dukhovich’s mercenary gangs are hot on their trail—eager to silence Darius before he ever takes the stand—and The Hitman’s Bodyguard quickly becomes an off-the-rails cross-Europe chase.

The script by Tom O’Connor is serviceable at best and would have sunk if not for the combined charisma of Reynolds and Jackson. Watching the film you quickly realize all the best parts are the ones that the two actors improvised, from Jackson’s MF’ing asides to Reynolds’ wry delivery.

Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) offers up fairly run-of-the-mill set pieces, occasionally punctuated by some nifty GoPro perspective shots. Sure there’s a boat/SUV/motorcycle chase through Amsterdam’s canals, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in any James Bond or Jason Bourne or Bruce Willis movie. And since the ending is preordained from the word “go”, all we’re left with is the journey. Fortunately the stars, including Salma Hayek as Darius’ incarcerated wife, elevate the film enough to make it all work.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard certainly won’t win any awards, but it won’t be up for any year-end Razzies, either. Fans of Reynolds and/or Jackson will have plenty of fun along the way. All told, it’s a better than average way to start closing out the summer movie season.


3.5/5 stars