A couple of years ago, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) was luxuriating in his Triple A rating as the best bodyguard around, ferrying his clients from place to place and ensuring that any unpleasantness was as far from them as possible, his mantra being "boring is best", since a day of nothing happening on his job was the best kind of day. But on one of those days, just as he completed a successful assignment, he was waving off the client in a private jet at the airport when there was a shot ringing out and the man was murdered through the window he was sitting next to with a well-aimed sniper's bullet. Now, Bryce has found his cachet has dropped significantly, and he gets poor jobs...
Jobs like ferrying a hitman, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) from Coventry in England to The Hague in The Netherlands, and he only secures that mission thanks to nobody else being available and his ex, Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), phoning him as a last resort. The thing is, Bryce is a really good bodyguard and only had that one slip two years in the past, his fastidious approach to the task in hand saving almost everyone he has ever been hired to protect. But as the old saying goes, you make one mistake and that's what they remember you for (is that an old saying?), though now our hero has a chance to make good on his former promise and prove himself one of the best.
As many pointed out, this was basically a nineteen-eighties buddy movie dressed up with twenty-first century trappings, and that was following the template of Midnight Run, though this time the bodyguard was the straightlaced and square one, and the man he had been hired to save from the bad guys was the foul-mouthed one, to the point of being tiresome in this instance. This had been drawn from one of those scripts on the Black List, that collection of promising screenplays that had yet to be produced, but as was often the case it had been extensively rewritten, here to turn it into a comedy. Or supposedly turn it into a comedy, one for those who believe it is clever to swear.
The trouble with that was for Jackson turning the air blue was second nature, so unless you were only familiar with his PG-rated roles, or indeed had never heard of him (perish the thought!), the novelty was well and truly wearing off within the first half hour of The Hitman's Bodyguard. Had there been more of a story instead of the generic effort we were served up here, it might have made this more valued for the power of a good slice of dialogue can be greatly enhanced by the situation it was applied in, but here we were simply given bickering in between the stunts and action sequences. Admittedly that action was highly impressive, but again nothing you had not really seen before in this context, and they certainly did not render the comedy any funnier, prompting you to wonder why they bothered.
Not why they bother making the movie, but why they bothered trying to make the audience laugh, presumably once they had cast Reynolds and Jackson they thought they were the new Eddie Murphy and... Judge Reinhold? Someone like that. Anyway, not even their combined charisma could lift this hackneyed material into the stratosphere, which left you hankering after another car chase or shootout to begin rather than spending time with characters who were barely two-dimensional. This was co-produced with Hong Kong backers, which may be why the action was so accomplished, but heroic bloodshed this was not, and you yearned for them to make the most of the pairing largely in vain. Gary Oldman bookended the story as the Belarussian war criminal who is on trial and has his men attempting to murder Kincaid, whose testimony can put him away, thus incidentally stoking the real life wrath of the peaceful country of Belarus in the process. Once you knew about the script's history, you couldn't help but wonder what it had been like originally: did it make more of the moral quandaries uneasily skirted here? Fairly big hit, mind you. Music by Atli Örvarsson.