Occasionally, I’ll see a movie that doesn’t work on almost any level, but the one level that does work keeps it from being a complete waste of time. That’s the best way I can describe watching The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an action/comedy hybrid that is too jittery with its tonal shifts and attempts to cram in some romances that are convoluted at best. Somehow, this film attracted a talented cast, and that cast is what makes the film in any way watchable.
Bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is down on his luck after reaching the pinnacle of his field when he’s called in to escort notorious and prolific assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) from England to the Hague, where Kincaid is set to testify against the genocidal leader of Belarus (Gary Oldman). Kincaid has agreed to testify in order to set his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) free from prison. Because of their respective jobs, though, Bryce and Kincaid know very well about each other, and they’ll have to set aside their differences if they have any chance of surviving the trip.
The story wants to do a lot, setting up both Bryce and Kincaid as characters with a history while also exploring Kincaid’s love of his wife, Bryce’s estrangement with the Interpol agent (Elodie Yung) he blames for ruining his career, and following the search for the pair by assassins intending to prevent Kincaid’s testimony. Throw in some action sequences, and you have a lot of material to fit into the film. The script, though, is in desperate need of a polish, while the action is generic and lacking.
Still, it’s hard to deny that it’s fun watching Reynolds and Jackson banter. Any movie that allows for a slew of “motherfuckers” from Jackson has that going for it, and Reynolds’ character works well with Reynolds’ signature ability to be a funny asshole. Throw in Hayek’s scene-stealing performance (particularly a flashback to how Kincaid met Sonia), and even Gary Oldman doing what he can to liven up a painfully generic baddie, and you get something that’s almost watchable in spite of itself. It’s just frustrating to see this pair wasted on this film, rather than something that made better use of its actors’ skills.