Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard. It's OK.

Some mild spoilers.

A couple of years after a high profile job goes disastrously south on him and kills his reputation, an elite protection agent aka a bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) is tasked with protecting a key witness (Samuel L. Jackson) who is going to testify in a war crimes trial against a Belarussian dictator (Gary Oldman). Trouble is, the witness is a hit man who has a lot of previous history with the bodyguard.

It's not bad. I've seen worse. Yeah, mighty praise right there.

The bad.

The Hitman's Bodyguard is an odd film with an odd tone that works in places and fails in others. It's billed as an action comedy and yes it's chock full of action but the comedy side of it dies on it's arse. Seriously, I don't think I smiled once during the film. It feels forced, relying on dozens of incredulous reaction shots and gratuitous profanity for laughs. It's a cheap and boring way to make people chuckle. Don't get me wrong, I love a nice bit of swearing but to quote a character in the film "He ruined motherfucker for me", it loses it's impact fierce fast when you hear it every 90 seconds.

Tonally it's bizarre, a buddy comedy about a race to get to a war crime trial. One minute we are watching disposable heavies get beat around the head to the sounds of wisecracks and jokes and the next we watch a family being gunned down in front of a screaming father. It's jarring to say the least.

Incredulous reaction shot number 67
The good.

All that said I kind of enjoyed it in places. But I'm pretty easily pleased when it comes to stuff like this. It wastes no time in getting going and moves like a bullet. It's never boring which should be a capital crime in an action film. The central pair work well together. They bounce off each other and bicker like fools. They are nicely written, they each have a solid backstory that intertwines cleverly in places, and they both have a well defined arc during the movie. We get a couple of moral conundrums to think about that that I wasn't expecting. The action is nothing new but it's pleasingly splattery, crunchy, frenetic, and well done. In an era of tame 12A action films it's nice to see a bit of crunch. Plus it takes place in locations we don't usually see action films take place in. Manchester, quiet laneways in the English countryside, Amsterdam's canals and the Hague.

Reynolds is a solid action star. This throws up no challenges to him but what he does he does well. Deadpool aside Reynolds does an awful lot of middle of the road films like this. I'd love to see him stretch himself a bit. Films like Buried show he has the talent for it but he keeps wasting it. Jackson can do this in his sleep. As above, he has loads of talent and charisma just spills off him so why does he keep taking the easy route?  Gary Oldman is wasted in a role that requires him to look menacing and spout a few threats. TBH I think he was hired because he did a solid Russian accent in a Call Of Duty game a few years back and finally Salma Hayek as Jackson's wife is utterly pissed away in an annoying role that just requires her to look angry and swear in Spanish.

It's an OK film. A good way to pass a couple of hours but one that would have worked far better as a straight action movie in my opinion. It's mindless silly fluff but it did throw up one question to ponder on. Is it ever justifiable to kill an evil person? Something to chew on as you leave the cinema.

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