We tend to think that the hard core action films drop into theaters in the beginning of the summer, but that is not the case for Patrick Hughes new film The Hitman’s Bodyguard. This film is filled to the brim with edge of your seat action and deplorable villains and unexpected humor. A large part of the success of this film will lie in the cast, but without a great script the cast wouldn’t have the pillars to work from.
Just as the name suggests, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is about a successful assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) who is in need of protection. Darius is a key witness in the trial of madman ruler of Belarus Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), whose powerful reach can dispense of anyone in his way. With intelligence agencies compromised, a protective agent, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), has been brought in to make sure Darius makes his court date alive.
It’s not a complicated movie in terms of story, but there is a nice touch of complicated characters within the film. The nice thing about these characters are that they are opposites of each other. To be fair, we always need opposing forces within a movie, but it was satisfying to have the film address them, even if it was briefly. The back and forth created between Darius and Michael was not only entertaining, but it made you think.
I know I tend to read between the lines of movies, but they make the films more entertaining for me. As a screenwriter, it also proves that you can have a fun action movie all the while having a voice and something to say during it. Writer Tom O’Connor does a good job at this without being heavy-handed. It also doesn’t hurt that you have Reynolds and Jackson delivering the lines.
A big draw for me of this movie (besides the Bodyguard spoofed poster) was the chemistry between these two heavyweights. They might not always be fresh characters in their films, but I think they are brilliant at what they do so they don’t have to. Sam Jack can be a fouled mouth weapons expert in every film, I will still go see it. This film isn’t any different, except you add another smart-ass combat expert to the team. These two stars are really good at playing the same character, which normally might cause a problem, but only enhances The Hitman’s Bodyguard.
We have seen many examples of mega stars battling each other for dominance on screen (my favorite is the original Magnificent Seven), but I never once witnessed this between Reynolds and Jackson. They are a modern day Abbot and Costello, in a NSFW action film. It’s not that one coward behind the other, it was that they balance each other out. This balance brings the best to the screen when appropriate, allowing each one to shine when they need to.
It’s also important to acknowledge two females who hold impressive power over these men within the film. One is utilized in such a refreshing way it’s a joy to see, and the other is under utilized in a frustrating way. Let’s start with the latter so we can end on a positive note. If you are not familiar with Elodie Yung (who plays Amelia, the foil to Michael), you need do some research. Sure she’s elegant, but she kicks ass. She holds a black belt in Karate and has expressed those skills in both GI Joe: Retaliation and Daredevil. She can handle herself, and I wish I would have been able to see more of that in this film.
True, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for her to do that, but when there was I feel they failed at giving Yung her due. There has been examples recently where the love interest doesn’t have to be a damsel in distress, I wish we could move past this outdated cliche. If we really want to split hairs, Salma Hayek’s Sonia (the foil to her husband Darius) is exactly what we should be seeing more of. A woman who can literally kickass and have a man fall head over heels for her at the same time. It’s used in the film as a comedic element, but it is still a great example.
I don’t know why it’s taken so long, but I want to see more movies where Hayek uses her body for strength not attraction and her voice for power and not seduction. While Everly wasn’t the greatest movie, it’s in the realm of what I’m referring to. It’s done well in The Hitman’s Bodyguard in the sense that the comedy it portrays goes beyond fun elements to develop a well-rounded character. You know what she stands for, you know what she wants, and you know what she’s going to do to get those things. Besides, it’s Hayek, I’ve missed seeing her on screen.
Above all else, this is an action film. It is filled with impressive hand to hand combat scenes, unbelievable car chases, and a brilliant mix of both. There are some times the CGI was less than impressive, which is frustrating considering that nowadays it’s easier to access good technology, but the majority of the action was practical, or so it seems. This has its good and bad points within the film. While it’s amazing to see these stunts actually take place, the camera work prevented the audience to fully enjoy the wild ride presented on screen.
This next paragraph might fall under the category of “niche snobbery” but hear me out. I just came off of a weekend where I participated in a festival dedicated to action films and the stunt teams behind them. I watched 35 films where the stunts reigned and blew the audience away. I have been integrated into the world of stunts, team/choreography/actors and respect everything they do to make the movies we enjoy so much. With all of that said, I wish I could have been able to see all the stunts that populated the film.
I understand the utilization of close, hand-held shots used in action scenes. The drama is built up if the audience is made to feel that they are right in the middle of the high stakes of the action. The problem becomes that the action is so close you miss half of the things that are going on “around you” and they all end up becoming a huge blur. Action choreography in films is a beautiful dance. The way the body moves to absorb or deflect power is perfectly timed and embodies the meaning of the ying and the yang. Granted, I’m a huge fan of fight choreography, but it’s one of the energy spiking elements of action films, and I want to see it. That’s not to say that all of the action was missed, there was quite a bit that was throughly enjoyed, I just wanted to be captivated by all of it.
No matter what was expressed above, I will definitely go see this movie again. This will be one of those movies that will be viewed each time it is on television because it’s a fun escape. It has heart pounding action, death defying stunts, and foul humor that make for an enjoyable experience (if you like that sort of thing). And unlike expressed in the movie, Mr. Jackson can not ruin the word motherfucker.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard opens nationwide today.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Lionsgate Publicity