The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) (Review)

If any genre is in Hollywood's bad books at the moment, it's comedy. A genre that should inspire fits and giggles now evokes moans and groans, becoming the birthing ground for some of 2017s worst films; The House, Baywatch, Snatched, Table 19, Rough Night and the abomination that was Diary of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul have all been slaughtered by critics, which has in turn inflicted damage upon those much-needed box office receipts. I would go as far as to argue that Girls Trip is the only straight-up comedy success story (unless you think The Big Sick falls into the genre) and the genre is losing momentum horrendously. 

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson's double hander, The Hitman's Bodyguard, hopes to buck the downward trend and put comedy of its misery by balancing the ratio of dreadful comedies-to-half decent comedies. The Patrick Hughes-directed picture follows Michael Bryce's (Reynolds) climb back up to the top after he failed to prevent the death of a major figure two years previous. An ex-collegue come lover turns to Bryce to deliver Darius Kincaide (Jackson), a notorious hitman witness to a Russian dictator's crimes against humanity, to The Hague to provide evidence against the merciless Russian. It leads to a whole myriad of disaster and pain along the way, most of which is absorbed by the audience.

First and foremost, The Hitman Bodyguard is downright lazy. Depressingly lazy, in fact. Not all films have to try and reinvent the wheel but The Hitman's Bodyguard does not even strain to make a slight adjustments to the general template, copy and pasting bits from better, far superior comedies - but never skilfully handling the translation or execution well enough. It meanders around - for far too long, I may add - ticking every cliche on the list off with little care for innovation or originality. Again, you do not always need to reinvent the wheel but you need to at least provide audiences with something to make the time and money they have spent on or with your end product worthwhile. This film does not.

While the laughs are not completely devoid here, they are certainly not the responsibility of the script. Tom O'Connor's screenplay leaves an awful lot to be desired, formulaic and strained and in no hurry to provide anything substantial - or even remotely humorous. Most of the set pieces feel worn and threadbare and those with even a dash of creativity can be seen in the film's promotional material; you literally don't even have to pay a penny to be witness to the laughs from this one - just watch the trailer instead. O'Connor inexperience is apparent and while he provides a rough outline for the actors to ricochet between, it is never close to enough.

Ryan Reynolds' delivers a very subtle new shade of Deadpool while Samuel L Jackson plays Samuel L Jackson in the way only Samuel L Jackson knows how to, reaffirming that very notion we have seen all of this before. Admittedly, they make a cracking team and the chemistry and dynamic is very clear to see and is, at times, enjoyable. All laughs are down to the rapport they craft, even though they only seem to play heightened versions of themselves, or popular characters from their past. Samuel L Jackson saying the word 'mothefu*ker' and other foul-mouthed expletives? Revolutionary. Ryan Reynolds with high-octane energy levels? Astounding. Both have been talented and versatile in the past (Reynolds is phenomenal in Buried and impressive in Woman in Gold) and they do not need to fall into these stereotypical, type-cast roles. But heck, at least they seemed to be having more fun than me.

Patrick Hughes' direction operates on the simplest, most fundamental level only. Peppered throughout are some fine, rather sharp visual gags but nothing else is worth noting, manoeuvring between the set pieces with little cause for excitement or celebration. Amsterdam is explored in an a half-interesting way but that mainly boils down to the fact Amsterdam is rarely visited by major Hollywood films, so thrill of seeing a new city on the screen is a moment to revel in; Coventry, less so, but I never thought I'd see a shootout on the streets of the city so it has that going for it, I guess.

Atli Orvarsson's score is decent, helping to enhance the intensity where the script lets it down. It's nothing overly special but suitable and one of the stronger elements of this disappointing action-comedy. Still on the music front, the incorporation of popular songs - I Want To Know What Love Is and Dancing In The Moonlight - are so on the nose it borders on offensive. It is an inauthentic, garish use of music so poorly executed: after letting out a little chuckle as the Foreigner hit swelled, I immediately hated myself afterwards for indulging in such a cheap laugh but I was so desperate for a joke I would have laughed at a dick joke - sure enough, there was a couple (one of which can be seen in the poster above). How predictable. It again indicates the film's sheer joy in kicking in the cliches and plumping for the most predictable route on every occasions.

The Hitman's Bodyguard's laziness is its Achilles' heel. Most problems stem from the lacklustre, cliched script and narrative, with the majority of laughs coming from the natural camaraderie of the two leads and some visual gags and minor flourishes along the beaten way. Even with the two leads becoming the stand-out element though, it cannot help but feel they are regurgitating characters they have previously played, again striking you as a uninspired, almost pointless film altogether.  It has been a rocky few months for comedy and unfortunately The Hitman's Bodyguard is not the picture to buck the frustrating downward trend - although it doesn't really worsen it either.


Summary: The Hitman's Bodyguard leaves a lot to be desired, with a dry script deserting its two leads with only their natural charm - which can only get them so far - in a film so formulaic and cliched in nature that it feels copied and pasted from much more successful, actually funny comedies.