(SPOILERS AHEAD) I wasn’t supposed to like “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” this past weekend’s Ryan Reynolds/Samuel L. Jackson odd couple action comedy. In fact, at only 39% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, I wasn’t even supposed to SEE IT. I was SUPPOSED to see 93% Rotten Tomatoes approved “Logan Lucky,” the NASCAR heist film starring (He can’t lose) Channing Tatum, (hotter than Hansel right now) Adam Driver, and (He’s f-ing James Bond) Daniel Craig. But apparently, I was in the majority, as The Hitman’s Bodyguard bested industry projections by a few million bucks and came in at #1 with $21.6 million. So why did I make this choice? Two reasons: 1) Erin and I really love Ryan Reynolds. We think he’s an absolute crack up and love his sarcastic wit; 2) My work colleague texted me on Friday night, saying he’d seen it and that it was worth ignoring the critics. Logan Lucky will certainly be on the menu, but from that point on it wasn’t going to be our choice the past weekend. So, Erin and I hit the AMC 7 in Santa Monica on Sunday hoping the Reynolds/Jackson combo wouldn’t disappoint.
This movie was Grosse Pointe Blank but with far more action and the base-instinct satisfying violence of a Django Unchained. If the title didn’t give it away, it’s about hit men and security details. Reynold’s “Michael Bryce” is a once top-o-the-charts security professional whose motto is “Boring is Better” and keeps his protection of rich but morally questionable clients neat and tidy … until one of them, a Japanese arms dealer, is killed just after Bryce delivers him safely to his private jet. He loses his reputation and the girl, Interpol agent “Amelia Roussel” (played by Netflix/Marvel’s “Elektra,” Elodie Yung), not because she now sees him as a loser, but because HE thinks she sold out his client’s location to her employer.
Flash forward 2 years. Down on his luck and literally pissing in a juice bottle in his car, Bryce is working to protect lesser clients when he receives a desperate call from Amelia after her security detail was compromised and attacked in route to The Hague. Interpol was escorting a key witness to an atrocities trial, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Amelia and Jackson’s “Darius Kincaid,” a top-level assassin, barely escape the assault by soldiers serving the man standing trial – Gary Oldman’s sinister Belarussian “President Dukhovich.” They get to a safe house, where Bryce reluctantly meets them to answer his ex’s distress call. When Kincaid (who is nursing a gunshot wound to the leg) and Bryce meet eye to eye, they immediately begin fighting, cueing the audience that there is some history there. Bryce exclaims that Kincaid has tried to kill him 27 times (“No, 28… Prague!”) Amelia leaves to get back to Interpol, and then the movie is off to the races with about 80-90 minutes of Jackson and Reynolds bantering back and forth and measuring their dicks.
This 80-90 minutes is why I paid to see this film in the theaters, and it delivers. There is real chemistry in the dueling characters seemingly lack of it. Jackson’s Kincaid has always succeeded by “doing his thang” compared to the buttoned up and methodical Bryce, and is seemingly unkillable. Hunted by Dukhovich’s goons, Kincaid and Bryce slowly grow fonder and protective of one another throughout a series of near death escapes, pasture strolls, and a fantastic riverside chase sequence through the streets of Amsterdam. Kincaid even provides some romantic advice to Bryce on how to win back Amelia, who appears as “Pure Evil” on Reynold’s caller I.D., but whom he’s never stopped loving. The best scene of the entire film – and one that will certainly earn the most buzz – comes when Kincaid flashes back to tell Bryce about the night he fell in love with his wife Sonia, played by (I can’t believe I’m only getting to her now) a scene-stealing Selma Hayek. Set in an outlying dive in Mexico some years ago, Sonia is single-handedly winning a nasty bar fight against a bunch of tough dudes, breaking beer bottles at will and gutting customers – all in slow motion – as Kincaid looks on, mesmerized. Her eyes eventually meet his, and it’s love at first sight. What’s most enjoyable about Hayek’s character is she’s as tough and foul-mouthed as we always picture Sam Jackson (she’s liberal with the “motherfucker”[s])
The movie probably could have shed 10-12 minutes and moved a little better for it, but it was nevertheless a very fun ride that delivered in just about every sequence. When I’m being entertained that well by two actors who are playing closely to the respective types that the public has come to love, it seems silly to nitpick too much. Plus – Russian bad guys! (Oh, sorry… Belarussian. Either way, I think it’s safe to say Hollywood has re-entered the 1980s with this theme lately)
I won’t spoil the ending except to say the action doesn’t stop once they finally reach The Hague. The movie ends with plenty of sequel potential, and I for one hope we see another pairing of Reynolds and Jackson. Parents: NOT for the kiddos. Official Review status: “Strong Renter,” but I’m glad I saw it in the theater. Whatever your medium, I hope you’ll enjoy it as well.