Sometimes, all you need to do is get the right cast in front of the camera and let them do their thing. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is one of those times.
With the trial of notorious war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) desperate for witnesses, the authorities turn to notorious contract killer Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) to testify. But when Guttersnipe’s forces ambush the Interpol convoy, they’re forced to bring in private protection agent Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) to get Kincaid to the Hague on time.
Originally envisioned as a straight action movie (it was one of the 2011 Black List scripts), it underwent a complete rewrite shortly before production began to capitalise on its leads’ fantastic chemistry and it’s a gamble which pays off.
Neither Jackson or Reynolds is operating outside their comfort zone here, but there’s so much fun to be had in this Nick Fury vs Deadpool road trip that it feels churlish to complain about them doing what they do so well just because it comes easily. Belying his 68 years, Jackson is in the thick of the action, as if having seen the flabby theatrics of “XXX: The Return Of Xander Cage”, he realised he was going to have to show them how it’s really done. His freewheeling, profanity-strewn hitman is the perfect foil for Reynolds’ neurotic motormouth agent with a chip on his shoulder. The ‘ticking clock’ of the witness deadline may feel a bit arbitrary and forced at times but it’s used as a framework for a non-stop procession of impressive action sequences where director Patrick Hughes (“The Expendables 3”) focusses his attention, secure in the knowledge his cast know what they’re doing. Coventry may be Hollywood’s most unlikely setting for a mercenary throw down but it’s merely an appetiser to some truly thrilling action stunt work once the movie shifts to the Netherlands.
Oldman’s role may be small but he puts everything into it, creating a threatening and chillingly ruthless villain who feels more authentic than the usual one-dimensional bad guys these films usually have. There are also surprisingly satisfying arcs for both our heroes too, the subplots and characters development being provided by the fantastic Salma Hayek as Kincaid’s wife Sonia and Elodie Yung as Interpol Agent Roussel.
It may not be quite as sharp as “Lethal Weapon” or as bombastic as “Bad Boys” but it’s an action packed, undemanding crowd-pleaser with bags of charm and likeability to spare featuring Reynolds and Jackson at the top of their game.