The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
2021, R, 100 min. Directed by Patrick Hughes. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Grillo, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Richard E. Grant.
REVIEWED By Matthew Monagle, Fri., June 18, 2021
One wonders if we would even have a follow-up to The Hitman’s Bodyguard if it were not for industry-wide underperformance in 2017. The first film managed to ride an unimpressive August into three weeks as the No. 1 movie in America, and that kind of success – earned or otherwise – pretty much earns you a sequel whether you want it or not. And so it is that The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard lands in theatres this weekend with the unenviable cast of bucking another gloomy financial trend.
Michael Bryce (Reynolds) has lost everything. After saving infamous killer Darius Kincaid (Jackson) from an army of assassins, Bryce has been excommunicated from the personal protection industry. This would allow him some much needed “me” time if not for the demands of Sonia Kincaid (Hayek), who kidnaps Bryce and demands that he help her find her husband. When their paths cross with Greek terrorist Aristotle Papadopolous (Banderas, thoroughly wasted), a very predictable sort of hell breaks loose, and the three unlikely allies must work together the save Europe from destruction.
To the filmmakers’ credit, the sequel does attempt to mix things up a little bit. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard seems to borrow heavily from Grosse Pointe Blank, twisting Michael Bryce into a mess of self-help platitudes in his search for meaning. Gone are both his bodyguard license and his guns; much like John Cusack’s character from that film, Bryce is positioned as a reluctant heavy, propelled along by forces outside his direct control. It’s a smart twist on the standard Reynolds stock character and a good egalitarian gesture from director Patrick Hughes, who gives Jackson and Hayek a lot more to do as a direct result. Had the film mined this existential crisis for more inspiration, it might have justified its reason for existing. But one clever idea does not a movie make. The film struggles to carve out a distinct aesthetic for its violence, alternating between crass comedy and cartoonish violence with no sense of how to combine these two into something sustainable. Hayek seems game as Sonia, but so many of the film’s best ideas seem to revolve around her willingness to spout profanities in English and Spanish alike. While the occasional gag still lands – such as Bryce’s ragdoll body being battered by cars – The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard feels like an unholy combination of Red and Boondock Saints (though admittedly, for some, this probably constitutes high praise).
Should The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard pull another rabbit out if its hat and dominate a weakened box office for three months, we will almost certainly be having this same conversation in three years’ time. For now, though, let us content ourselves with the knowledge that there are better action movies – even in a post-pandemic Hollywood – that demand our time and attention. And if you absolutely must spend your money on a Ryan Reynolds movie in 2021, just remember that Free Guy is only two months away. At least that one has Taika Waititi.