Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard





The Hitman's Bodyguard
Cert: 15 / 118 mins / Dir. Patrick Hughes / Trailer



It seems like we've waited most of the year for a break in the downpour of superhero tentpole-movies. So, before the autumnal clouds gather for Thor and the Justice League, Lionsgate have taken the opportunity to get the unmasked Deadpool and Nick Fury sent to Coventry*1 for a road-trip in The Hitman's Bodyguard, the kind of movie which would usually land in March or October, were it not for the names on the poster...

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a down-at-heel close-protection bodyguard, tasked to safeguard professional assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) on his journey to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to testify against despotic war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). The underhand and frighteningly-connected Dukhovich has strike-teams out to silence the sole witness before he can arrive, but Bryce and Kincaid have their own intertwined history, and the road-trip will be anything but straightforward for this odd-couple! [ Do you see? One of them is an expert at killing people, whilst the other specialises in keeping them alive. It is this central disparity which creates unavoidable friction between the lead characters, and from whence the thrills and indeed humour will arise. Salma Hayek also stars as Kincaid's wife Sonia who swears a lot and who is in prison, and can therefore have her segments produced entirely separately. ]

At least I imagine that's how the pitch went. What we actually get here is a lighthearted generic action movie interspersed with scenes of Reynolds and Jackson's semi-improvised bickering in a car. Which is fine. The Hitman's Bodyguard feels for all the world like a Gerard Butler schedule-filler*2 that struck gold when the casting director was able to call in a couple of favours. The screenplay is efficient enough, if largely unimaginative, and leaves you with the impression that the 'comedy' aspect was tacked on in the third-draft once the lead performers had been confirmed. Reynolds and Jackson are great of course, but there's little here that they haven't done elsewhere, and to greater effect. Despite the best work of writer Tom O'Connor*3 and multiple narrative-assisting flashbacks, the audience never forgets that they're watching the actors, not the characters.

Likewise, Gary Oldman is basically fine as an Eastern-European warlord who mostly sits in a courtroom arrogantly protesting that he has no charge to answer, although he's not doing anything that a hundred other character actors could have brought in at less than half the price. Salma Hayek, as noted above, swears for comic effect at regular intervals. And she's good at it, but y'know. It seems like director Patrick ('Expendables 3') Hughes doesn't really know what he wants to do with his players so he's just letting them autopilot*4, and handing the day's footage to the editors. To be fair, that strategy could have backfired far worse than it did here.

The film's action set-pieces are on-par for the genre with some fantastic stunt-work, but using a hyper-shaky cam that's designed to disguise the lack of movement in a frame, and the kind of CGI explosions which make you realise how much of the budget went on the casting.

Overall, it feels like everyone had an absolute blast making this movie, which is rarely the sign of a focused piece of work. This is no exception.

The Hitman's Bodyguard is eminently forgettable and more than a little uneven, although it's distracting fun for the duration of the run-time at least. But when it comes to the standout actioner of the Summer-season with an A-list cast, gleefully stylish violence and a jukebox soundtrack, that crown belongs to the Atomic Blonde...



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
If you liked what Ryan Reynolds was doing in Deadpool*5, what Sam Jackson was doing in Die Hard With A Vengeance and what the story was doing in From Paris With Love or Olympus Has Fallen, you'll get a lot out of The Hitman's Bodyguard.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Not while Charlize Theron's kicking arses in the screen next door..


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Not as much as director Patrick Hughes would perhaps like to think, but just enough to warrant the budget being funnelled directly into the casting department, yes..


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
With the best will in the world, of course not*6.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Nope.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is, indeed.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mace Windu's in this. Come on, keep up…


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Literally, not metaphorically. That's something you don't see every week at the flicks. [ BACK ]

*2 With the added bonus of not starring Gerard Butler. Now there's a selling-point for a movie. You can have that one for free, guys... [ BACK ]

*3 Not that one. [ BACK ]

*4 Not the requirements of the directorial role of course, but I suppose this was never going to be 'an auteur's movie'. [ BACK ]

*5 Also if you like Deadpool's thing of taking an iconic 80s ballad and framing it in an ironic way against a background of carnage. This film does that. Twice. [ BACK ]

*6 Oh, and while I'm on, despite what the film says there's no Dover-to-Amsterdam ferry. It's geographically unfeasible; the Amsterdam ferries leave from Newcastle. The ferries from Dover sail to Calais or Dunkirk, where you'd drive up through France to Holland. And sure, those of you who haven't seen the film may be wondering 'well how do you know that's what they don't do?' which would be a fair question except that 'Amsterdam' is on the ferry in huge letters. Okay, this isn't as whopping a transgression as the last Transformers film, but I didn't want to go the whole review not mentioning it. [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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