Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Hitman’s Bodyguard: Guarding Samuel L. Jackson

Alexander Lukashenko must be bent out of shape. Hollywood makes a movie about a Belarusian dictator trying to escape prosecution for crimes against humanity, but they can’t be bothered to call him out by name? Instead, it is one Vladislav Dukhovich who has put a price on the only international assassin crazy enough to testify against him. All the other potentially damaging witnesses have been killed, but Darius Kincaid is bizarrely hard to kill. He will also have old nemesis, personal security specialist Michael Bryce watching his back, whether he likes it or not, in Patrick Hughes’ The Hitman’s Bodyguard (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Several years ago, a Japanese arms dealer under Bryce’s protection was drilled between the eyes, dragging Bryce’s business down with him. It was Kincaid who made the shot. In the small world department, Bryce’s ex, Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel is in charge of Kincaid’s security. Captured through a fluke, Kincaid cut a deal to testify against Dukhovich in exchange for his wife’s freedom. Unfortunately, his lack of faith in Interpol’s security protocols will be vindicated when Dukhovich’s mercenaries ambush their motorcade. Suspecting a mole in the agency, Roussel contracts Bryce to safely transport Kincaid to The Hague, despite their bitter history as rivals. Much Odd Couple-style humor ensues, as the body count escalates.

In between car chases and gun fights, Kincaid and Bryce will bicker and banter—and in the case of the former, drop MF bombs like there is no tomorrow. Yep, he would be the one played by Samuel L. Jackson. Frankly, this is the sort of loopy action comedy that were a staple of 1980s second run dollar theaters. It is therefore rather fitting Richard E. Grant has a cameo in the prologue as Bryce’s latest sleazy client.

It should be readily stipulated Jackson and Ryan Reynolds develop an amusing comedic chemistry together. They settle into a nice rhythm playing off each other and neither is too shy to mug a little for the camera. Jackson is basically recycling his Pulp Fiction persona yet again, but it still hasn’t gotten old yet, so it’s tough to blame him. Reynolds is well cast as the armed-and-dangerous Felix Unger. It is also nice to see Elodie Yung get to participate in the action as Roussel, while Gary Oldman (a reliable villain if ever there was one) chews the scenery as an entitled dictator would. However, Salma Hayek is under-employed as Kincaid’s borderline psychotic wife Sonia.

Bodyguard has plenty of action, exotic locales (getting riddled with bullet holes, but whatever), and some classic blues and R&B tunes licensed for the soundtrack. That doesn’t exactly add up to a masterpiece, but it is fun in a goofy, meathead kind of way. Thanks to the gung-ho commitment of Jackson and Reynolds, it all works on a basic laughter-and-mayhem level. Recommended for fans of Jackson and old school action-comedies, The Hitman’s Bodyguard opens this Friday (8/18) throughout the City, including the AMC Empire in Midtown.