Formulaic action comedy is off-target
It sounds like the dream team. The King Of Cool, Samuel L Jackson, alongside the likeable Ryan Reynolds. Both are usually right on the button when it comes to laughs. So putting them together in action comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard is fool proof, right? Not quite …….
The bodyguard of the title is Reynolds, who was once at the top of his tree. He’s forever reminding anybody who’ll listen about his one-time triple A rating. But the killing of an important client means relegation to the bottom rung and taking any security job he can get. He lands the job of guarding a hitman, Samuel L, the star witness in the trial of an Eastern European leader for corruption and genocide. But the politician is determined to walk free and will do anything to stop the hitman giving evidence. Bodyguard or no bodyguard.
The action is pretty much non-stop: gun battles, car chases and explosions in various capital cities of Europe just keep on coming. It’s big scale, noisy stuff, even though some of the camerawork for the hand to hand fight sequences is on the wobbly side. But after a while, all that relentless shooting, fighting ‘n’ crashing starts to wear thin, looking more like it’s covering up the film’s shortcomings. Strip all the mayhem away, and you have left is actually a pretty routine film, almost a cartoon caper, which has nothing special to offer on the plot front, and with mainly predictable characters.
The focus, inevitably, is very much on Jackson and Reynolds but their massive potential ends up being underused. They’re the film’s biggest selling point yet but, for some unaccountable reason, director Patrick Hughes seems almost coy when it comes to developing their relationship. When they’re allowed to do their stuff, they’re a good partnership, complete with the comedy we’ve been expecting, but those action sequences keep getting priority which means that, as a double act, they’re never allowed to be anywhere near as great as they could and should be. The chemistry simply isn’t allowed to flourish, even though both actors appear to be having a good enough time in roles that play to their strengths. Ironically, they’re often out-shone by Salma Hayek, who has a complete blast as Jackson’s ballsy, foul mouthed wife and does it rather well.
Despite something of a charm offensive from Reynolds and Jackson, we’ve been here before – probably in the 80s, but with different double acts – and the film simply can’t drag itself into 2017. It won’t stop the film doing just fine at the box office, simply on the strength of its two stars, but it does mean that it’s little more than a piece of action fun, and one that had its day years ago.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is released on Friday, 18 August.