The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Hitman's Bodyguard

The Hitman's Bodyguard would have played better were it not the umpteenth buddy action-comedy. Midnight Run really set the gold standard for this sort of thing, with Running Scared, Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs. and a few others not far behind. The formula is always the same: two mismatched individuals are thrown into a perilous situation and must work together to accomplish some sort of mission. Even if it's not on the same level as its predecessors, the strength of the performances helps The Hitman's Bodyguard to be at least passably entertaining.

Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a down-on-his-luck bodyguard who is hired to take notorious hitman Darius Kinkaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to the International Court of Justice so that he can testify against an Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman) accused of extreme human rights violations. As it turns out, Bryce and Kinkaid already know and dislike each other, which gives them plenty of opportunities to bicker as they attempt to outrun the goons dispatched to stop them.

The story in The Hitman's Bodyguard is more stale than week-old bread. It's not much more than an excuse to allow for occasional action scenes and plenty of comic interplay between the leads. Tom O'Connor's screenplay tries to shove in a touch of pathos by having Michael attempt to make amends with the former Interpol agent girlfriend (Elodie Yung) he blames for his career downfall. Like the main story, this subplot plays out in a dull, predictable fashion.

If nothing else, the movie generally delivers on its biggest assets. The action scenes are pretty good, most notably a boat/car/motorcycle chase through Amsterdam, as well as a wittily-conceived fight between Michael and a thug inside a hardware store. Director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) relies a tad too much on the shaky-cam/frantic editing style that's all too common these days. Still, the action is fun to watch.

The comedy scores even better, although it's admittedly weird. Bits in The Hitman's Bodyguard are funny in and of themselves, but not necessarily within the confines of the plot. There are a lot of bizarre little asides or moments of physical humor that don't really seem tied to the story, even if they do elicit laughter. One scene, for example, finds the guys stuck on a bus with a bunch of nuns. No reason for it, other than someone thought it would be funny to put the two stars amid some singing sisters.

The characters are thinly drawn, leaving the actors to play their own screen personas. That's disappointing, albeit not fatal, given that both of them have tons of natural charisma to work with. Reynolds ad-libs wisecracks like a fiend, while Jackson gets to say motherfucker a lot. You can't complain too much about that. They work as a team, as it appears they're greatly enjoying the opportunity to perform together.

Despite the star power the men possess, it's Salma Hayek who steals the show. Portraying Darius's foul-mouthed, violent-tempered, incarcerated wife, she's absolutely hilarious. This is one of those roles that makes you look at somebody in a whole new way. Hayek's work here could open the door for her to do some edgier comedies in the future.

The Hitman's Bodyguard is one of those right-down-the-middle movies. It's neither great nor terrible. Many things about it could have been better. Nevertheless, the elements that work provide a certain level of entertainment. I don't think anyone will remember much about the film ten years from now. For the two hours it takes to watch it, though, you could do a lot worse. Or a lot better.

( 1/2 out of four)

The Hitman's Bodyguard is rated R for strong violence and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 58 minutes.

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