Buddy-Cop movies have a long history in Cinema, one that is easily divided between painful duds and memorable favorites. But “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” doesn’t neatly fall into either of these categories. Instead, it’s a smorgasbord of various story threads that never quite weaves together a cohesive film. It has the aura of one of those infamous committee screenplays, where everyone lends a generic idea and dumbs down the good parts to make it as marketable and pleasant as possible. However, it’s not really a Buddy-Cop movie as both characters exist on the outskirts of the law, and it certainly wasn’t written by a committee. Instead, it was penned by Tom O’Connor, his second screenplay after 2012’s direct to video “Fire with Fire”.
It’s hard to put a pin in exactly what this movie is. The predictable parts are all there in black and white. (pun unintended) Two men with very different backgrounds and opposing ideologies will be forced to work together towards a common goal, learning to respect and possibly even like each other along the way. Who these characters are, how they get to their destination and the obstacles they encounter is what make some movies in this genre instant classics. Samuel L. Jackson is perfectly cast as the Hitman Darius Kincaid, a parody of the Mother-Effing Alpha males he’s played in so many films before. Ryan Reynolds plays professional Bodyguard Michael Bryce who is actually a bit uptight and annoying. Only when he finally starts to lose his cool are we given glimpses of RR’s manic charm. There isn’t as much chemistry between the two leads as we’d like to see. They’re occasionally funny, they have some good scenes, but it just never feels…special. Ironically, there is an example of special chemistry later in the film when a tonally out of place flashback tells the story of Kincaid meeting his wife (Salma Hayek).
The aforementioned flashback is also an example of the weird tonal shifts in the film. Kincaid’s Meet-Cute perfectly captures humorous-yet-romantic-ultra-violence. Bryce’s Meet-Cute is dumb. (no extra adjectives are warranted) A hand-to-hand combat scene between Bryce and Kincaid is very well done, while other shootouts are laughably bad. One car chase scene is a complete bore, yet the second is clever and entertaining. There’s even a valiant attempt at a faked-long-take fight to the death in the world’s smallest hardware store. Director Patrick Hughes further confuses action fans with his odd fetish for having things explode that shouldn’t. The (false) trope that you can blow up a car by shooting the gas tank died out in the mid 90s, but it’s used at least FIVE times in this movie! If that wasn’t odd enough, during the film’s climax, an air conditioning unit explodes with such fervor that it must have been pumping nitroglycerin in lieu of freon.
Like the action, the humor is an uneven road with dialog that is equally cliche, dull, or hilarious. Too many of the jokes are dead on arrival, but that makes the zingers that strike you unawares that much more enjoyable. It’s a shame they wasted the single greatest gag in the trailers.
I was left with three primary thoughts walking out of the theatre. 1) At 2 hours long, a tighter edit would have helped tremendously. 2) Based on this film, Patrick Hughes would be a “great” replacement once Michael Bay leaves the Transformer series for good. 3) I would LOVE to see a violent action rom-com featuring Kincaid and his Wife. I wonder if Robert Rodriguez is available?