Synopsis – The bodyguard Michael Bryce continues his friendship with assassin Darius Kincaid as they try to save Darius’ wife Sonia.
My Take – Released in 2017, the Patrick Hughes directed The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a rather enjoyable old school action comedy that mashed Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson’s signature comedic styles together quite brilliantly. While never exactly breaking the mold of its well-worn conceit, the winning chemistry shared between Reynolds and Jackson simply just managed to elevate the nonsensical spectacle and the simple plot to blockbuster status.
Now returning with a sequel, which also sees Salma Hayek promoted to lead status following her brief yet scene stealing appearance in the earlier film, here, director Hughes seems to be serving the familiar bloody action, gorgeous locations, and snarky humor, ingredients which helped turn its predecessor into a commercial success, but unfortunately, this time around he seems to also having trouble balancing the violence with the heart.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still watchable and has some funny moments (comparatively less though) but it struggles to do what the first one did better in pretty much every category and seems to be suffering from what many sophomore films fall prey to i.e. same basic idea, just made bigger.
It also doesn’t help that the film is overstuffed with too many characters, who are all blended into an unhinged pre-Daniel Craig era James Bond-style plot with a tendency to feel uncomfortably bloated. At its core, the film is simply a device to once again pit Samuel L. Jackson‘s hard-hitting foul mouthed Kincaid against Ryan Reynolds‘s Bryce and his desperate, futile attempt towards pacifism for comedic effect.
Set four years after the events of the first film, the story once again follows Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), a still traumatized former bodyguard who lost his AAA executive protection license after his encounter with nefarious hit-man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). Unable to move on in life, upon the suggestion of his therapist, Bryce agrees to a much needed sabbatical, which includes a self-imposed ban on the use of guns, and heads to Capri, Italy.
However, all his hopes for a quiet and peaceful time are immediately squashed when Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek), wife of Darius, comes to find him, under a hail of bullets and blood, begging Michael to help her rescue her husband who has been kidnapped by the mafia, to which he reluctantly obliges, but remains committed to going gun-free to retain some semblance of normalcy.
But what they don’t know is that the Mafioso thug who’s kidnapped Darius is also an Interpol informant and has been working with agent Bobby O’Neill (Frank Grillo) to take down Aristotle Papadopolous (Antonio Banderas), a Greek shipping magnate who has been scheming to release a dangerous computer virus into the European data grid to wreak havoc on its financial institutions and create general chaos. Find themselves blackmailed by O’Neill, in order to avoid jail time, the trio agree to help to stop Aristotle from the getting the data and the physical supplies to carry out his plan, by any means possible.
In order to fit all that in its 100 minutes run time, everything is hopelessly rushed, globe-trotting wildly and moving at an insane, barely narratively coherent pace. Co-written by Tom O’Connor, Brandon Murphy, and Phillip Murphy, the film repeats the same tired action film clichés from the first film, and its steadfast commitment to cartoon-style violence never wavers but its plot is just too ludicrously convoluted to enjoy, even for an action film.
If the first film was more about the bromance between the two, the sequel with addition of Sonia, who is as lethal, profane and impulsive as her husband, the effect is unbalanced and awkward, confirming that three is definitely a crowd.
Admittedly, I chuckled a couple of times as there is some enjoyable silliness – with a ravenously maternal Sonia and a pathetic Michael slightly oddly filling a void in each other’s lives, Michael at one point gets into a vehicle and says here’s the car chase or goes silly over-the-top, as when both our heroes and the villain kindly reference the 1987 film, Overboard, which Aristotle calls a minor classic, and the scene when Michael is being given a ‘sea burial’ after he’s knocked unconscious also merits a laugh, yet such memorable moments are in the minority. And when the closing credits begin to roll you realize that it wasn’t nearly as funny as it should have been, as the natural chemistry between the three leads doesn’t make up for its lack of a compelling story and antagonist.
Despite the presence of a scene chewing actor like Antonio Banderas, who wears a magnificent wig reminiscent of some of the most despicable tycoons in the James Bond films, his villainous plot is amazingly ludicrous. There simply just isn’t enough to understand the bare minimum of his motivations, and for anyone to care enough about the mission at-hand.
In the end it’s left to Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek to attempt to save the film. The sparkling chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson and the tempestuous relationship of this unlikely duo of characters continues to be the main draw of this bloated action comedy. Sure, they’re both playing characters they’ve delivered numerous times before, but they do it so well. Reynolds’ penchant for dry wit and Jackson’s foul-mouthed tirades are both firmly on display, even if he’s not given as much to do as in the original.
Meanwhile, Salma Hayek brings the expected aggressive energy to her beefed-up performance, balancing her action heroics and swear filled outbursts with fairly depressing eye-candy duties. Antonio Banderas hams it up appropriately without ever being given much to do. Frank Grillo is handed an action less kind of empty character that could have been played by anybody. Gabriella Wright and Tom Hopper are simply wasted. Morgan Freeman’s small role does have a twist, but then again, it amounts to nothing. Richard E. Grant shines once again in a laughable cameo. On the whole, ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ is a below par sequel which offers a few laughs and the occasional exciting sequence to maintain your interest.
Directed – Patrick Hughes
Rated – R
Run Time – 100 minutes