I want to meet whoever pitched the idea of Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds working a comedy/action movie together and buy him a drink. Then another one. Then eventually we get kicked out of the bar for peeing off of the pool table. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is without doubt one of the best movies of this year.
To summarise this movie as quickly as possible and without giving anything away, it’s a road trip movie fuelled by alcohol, gunfights and hilarious dialogue. There’s also quite a healthy amount of swearing and inventive insults, as you might expect from putting Deadpool and Nick Fury in a car together. Part of me secretly hopes this is just a video diary of what Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson get up to on a weekend…
Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, an uptight “Triple-A executive protection specialist” who has fallen on hard times since one of his clients was assassinated on his watch. Samuel L. Jackson is Darius Kincaid, an easy going and life-loving hitman who has been imprisoned (in Manchester of all places) and is the key witness in a war crimes tribunal. Something goes awry with his transport detail in Coventry (usually an alright place) and Bryce gets called in as on outside party to get him to the Hague in less than 48 hours to give evidence before the case is dismissed due to lack of evidence. Of course Vladislav Dukhovich, the evil dictator on trial played by Gary Oldman, is pretty hellbent on stopping them and so naturally they have a bit of a tough time getting from A to B.
Not only is the movie about stopping the bad guy but also a tale about love, loss and personal growth and development along the way. The pair immediately try to kill each other and their relationship is strained to say the least but ends up blossoming into something quite beautiful. Some films get over burdened by the mass of things they attempt to do at once but that’s definitely not a problem here!
A common problem of modern day action movies is the liberal application of shaky-cam to make the fights looks more fast paced, energetic and exciting than they would if filmed from a smoother perspective. Although there have been plenty of decent movies to break from the trend, John Wick most notable among them, The Hitman’s Bodyguard manages to strike a delicate balance. The fight scenes and car chases (there’s a lot of them) blend smooth panning camera shots and intense shaky scenes pretty seamlessly and it actually enhances the experience in the end. They also tend to be pretty brutal, there’s one scene that had every one wincing as it unfolded…
You know what else every good road trip needs? A kick-ass soundtrack and a sing-a-long. With the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and 2 movie soundtracks have been going from strength to strength and have come a long way from the infamous Inception days of obnoxious air horns. The soundtrack does a great job of mirroring the conflict of old vs. new between Reynolds and Jackson in the film, featuring some of the old school karaoke classics alongside some of the newer tracks, and it works brilliantly. Ram Jam’s “Black Betty” makes any movie an instant hit in my eyes!
The best and most important part of this movie though isn’t the intense and superbly delivered action scenes or the sweet mixtape soundtrack, but the achingly-funny writing. The movie had everyone in stitches from start to finish, all whilst still maintaining the seriousness of the plot. As I have already said, it’s like watching a road trip with Deadpool and a more laid back Nick Fury. Kincaid is an unquestionable bad-ass but sports the most non-chalant attitude to everything and exudes an almost zen-like calm. Whereas Bryce is still clutching at his old glory days where he wore an immaculate 3-piece to work everyday and had everything planned to military precision. Sure, this kind of on-screen relationship has been seen in buddy-cop movies since Gibson and Glover in Lethal Weapon. It’s nothing new but Ryan Reynolds has always been the dashingly handsome snarky prankster and having him bounce off the easy-going carefree hitman is quite simply delightful.
It would be rude not to mention the immensely talented Gary Oldman. His portrayal of Vladislav Dukhovich is exceptional despite having a relatively minor amount of screen time, he still does a fantastic job as the tyrannical Belarusian dictator desperate to hold onto his regime. Similarly the ever-lovely Salma Hayek performs her role, as the foul-mouthed assassin’s even fouler-mouthed wife, with such ferocity it’s hard not to be impressed. Dominating her poor cell-mate into standing in the corner facing the wall and I’m almost certain she makes a couple of Interpol agents wet themselves just from being in the room with her. Starring alongside Hayek is the equally lovely Elodie Yung as the hard-edged and dedicated Interpol agent as well as Bryce’s “pure evil” ex-girlfriend, who is as alike Reynold’s character as Hayek and Jackson’s.
All round the casting choices couldn’t be better. Reynolds and Jackson work so well together that you’d almost think they were an old married couple and were just Gibson and Glover on another of their mad-cap adventures. Oldman makes you hate his character in the brief moments he’s on-screen whilst Hayek verbally assaults you into loving her.
Action/comedy movies have had a tumltuous past and it’s not often a truly great one comes along but The Hitman’s Bodyguard is one of the best. It’s over-the-top and outrageous but you love every second of it and I guarantee you’ll walk out with your sides aching from laughing virtually non-stop throughout.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard hits cinemas August 17.