Friday, August 18, 2017


A bantering movie star buddy-comedy actioner made like they never went out of style, The Hitman’s Bodyguard rests solely on its leads’ charismatic chemistry and its director’s flair for hard-charging, light-touch action. Good thing that’s more than enough. Ryan Reynolds (forget Deadpool; this is the foul-mouthed bloody action comedy that made me understand his appeal) plays a down-on-his-luck bodyguard whose freelancing career protecting bigwigs took a nosedive after losing a client to a sniper’s bullet. Hoping to regain his top-bodyguard status, he’s saddled, through various plot complications, with protecting a funny, foul-mouthed assassin played by Samuel L. Jackson exactly how you’d guess he would. (He’s hugely likable here, appealingly soft-hearted for a vulgar, cold-blooded killer-for-hire.) The guy’s moral code leads him to testify against a human-rights-abusing dictator (Gary Oldman) on trial in Geneva. Or rather, he will testify if he can survive the trip there. The setup is a simple clothesline on which to hang banter and booms. Director Patrick Hughes (last seen helming Expendables 3, managing some memorable action between playing traffic cop to the bloated ensemble) obliges with fast car chases, clangorous gun fights, and heavy thwacks on the Foley track accompanying every bludgeoning. It’s all in good fun.

Reynold’s bodyguard (reluctantly pulled in by his lawwoman girlfriend Elodie Yung) naturally clashes with Jackson’s assassin (who ultimately wants to negotiate the release of his wife, Salma Hayek). Prickly mutual respect for their deadly skills and romantic motives remains separated by the side of the law with which they align themselves. But once they realize they both are only out to kill bad guys, they can make tentative peace in zippy action sequences that take them through planes, trains, automobiles, SUVs, boats, motorcycles, and a shuttlebus full of nuns. It’s that kind of movie. In brightly glossy digital widescreen frames, the action isn’t as elaborate as John Wick’s or as sensation-driven as Michael Bay’s. But there’s a happy medium to be found: proficient, efficient, hurtling stunts tied to a simple, effective ticking clock narrative momentum. Cars flip and explode. Bodies toss and turn. It builds a pleasurable rat-a-tat rhythm in which sometimes the staccato is the explosions, and sometimes it’s the wisecracks. Even so, the charm is in the two Movie Stars allowed to relax in a movie that lets their personas rev up and collide in pleasing B-movie sparks while action erupts effectively and concussively around them. It’s a splattery, foul-mouthed funny tone maintained with aplomb.