The first thing you need to know about the summer blockbuster “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is that it boasts an all-star cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek and Gary Oldman. And this is an all-star cast that really delivers for several big reasons.
#1: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” brings back the buddy action comedy
Remember back in the 1980s and 1990s when all the big Hollywood studios were cranking out buddy action comedies? The whole premise of those films was the “odd couple” or the “mismatched couple” that was forced to solve a problem together despite their seemingly irreconcilable differences. Everything else that happened – the car chases, the explosions and the stunts – was secondary to the banter and chemistry between the two stars.
Those types of films seem to have disappeared from the cinema in recent years (unless you count films like “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Central Intelligence”), and that’s why “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” seems so fresh. This is the classic, all-time “odd couple” – you have the straight-laced Ryan Reynolds who plays a “triple A security executive” (i.e. a bodyguard) and then you have the foul-mouthed assassin Darius Kincaid played by Samuel L. Jackson.
It’s the constant banter and wit between those two members of the all-star cast that should get all the attention. For example, one of the ongoing jokes of the movie is how Darius Kincaid has tried to kill Reynolds’ character (Michael Bryce) 28 times. And there’s a big in-joke involving Samuel L. Jackson’s role in “Pulp Fiction.”
Despite all the car chases, explosions and violence in the movie, it’s the moments of humor between these two that has attracted the attention of moviegoers. In one scene, for example, Samuel L. Jackson is doing a sing-along with a group of Italian nuns in a cramped bus as Ryan Reynolds looks on incredulously. And there’s another hilarious scene where Ryan Reynolds sings a falsetto version of Ace of Base’s “I Saw the Sign.”
It’s clear that the Hollywood marketing behind this film is designed to get moviegoers in the mood to see this odd couple. There’s one movie poster where Ryan Reynolds is carrying Samuel L. Jackson around in his arms, clearly looking like that’s about the last thing in the world he’d like to be doing.
#2: Salma Hayek steals every scene she’s in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”
Speaking of the all-star cast, you can’t forget about Salma Hayek, right? She’s always sultry and sexy, but here she really out-does herself. She plays Sonia Kincaid, the incarcerated wife of Darius Kincaid. Some critics have called her a “potty-mouthed Latina” for her role in this film, and that’s pretty accurate: she’s one woman you wouldn’t want to mess with and she’s not afraid to drop a few expletives here and there.
But she’s clearly playing more than just a stereotype here. There’s a lot of humor in her role, such as her desire to do yoga while behind prison bars. Every yoga scene she’s in is really top-notch.
And then there’s a funny flashback scene where we learn how Darius and Sonia fell in love – he’s such a badass assassin, and it turns out that the thing that really turned him on to her was her unflinching ability to take on a room of bad guys. During the scene, music from Lionel Richie’s “Hello” plays, so you can get an immediate sense of what kind of twisted humor the show’s director, Patrick Hughes, has in mind.
#3: Gary Oldman really delivers as an evil East European dictator
The whole premise of the movie is that there’s a dictator of Belarus, Vladislav Dukhovich, who is having everyone murdered who dares to testify against him in a human rights case at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the Netherlands. And so Gary Oldman, who plays the role of Dukhovich, has to pull off his very best “bad guy” routine to make the whole movie work. And boy does he deliver!
At first, you might not even recognize that it’s Gary Oldman. But he is able to convince everyone that he’s capable of getting to anyone in the world – even Darius Kincaid, who is being protected by the bodyguard Michael Bryce. Special props to Gary Oldman for pulling off his Slavic accent. Some critics have noted that it sounds a lot like his Russian accent in “Air Force One” – and if you’ve ever seen that movie, you’ll realize how much Gary Oldman really delivers on his role here.
#4: The real acting surprise of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is Élodie Yung
Once we meet the love interest of Samuel L. Jackson in the movie, Salma Hayek, then you know that, sooner or later, we’ll meet the love interest of Ryan Reynolds. In this case, it’s the remarkable French actress Élodie Yung (best known for her role in “Daredevil”), who plays the French-English Interpol agent Amelia Roussel. It turns out that Michael Bryce and Roussel had a romantic relationship in the past, but then things went wrong. Bryce even harbors the suspicion the Roussel might have been responsible for his fall from grace as one of the most sought-after bodyguards in the world.
#5: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is more than a live-action cartoon
Some critics have complained about all the bodies that seem to pile up, one after another in the movie. And yes, there are plenty of explosions, gunfights and violence that rapidly increase the body count within the film. However, here’s the thing – the characters of Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds keep this film from being just a live-action cartoon.
At one point in the movie, Darius Kincaid asks Michael Bryce to reconsider his sense of good and evil, his notion of right and wrong, and to consider what makes a “righteous” profession. In short, is it better to have a career killing evildoers (as Darius does, as an assassin), or is it better to have a career protecting the people who commit acts of evil (as Bryce often does, as a bodyguard-for-hire)? That question is not always an easy one to answer, which is why this film may have a few additional layers to unpeel before you can dismiss it as just another summer blockbuster.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” has been a welcome summer surprise – it’s an action comedy filled with an all-star cast that really delivers. Moviegoers will love the non-stop banter and chemistry between Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds, as well as appreciate the great acting roles of Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman and Élodie Yung.