Wednesday, December 20, 2017



It occurred to me that the buddy action film genre has become a dying breed in Hollywood summer blockbusters. I cannot think of the last one that did not feature science-fiction, fantasy or costumed heroes. So, imagine my surprise when Lionsgate released "THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD" during the late summer of 2017. 

Directed by Patrick Hughes and written by Tom O'Connor, "THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD" is an action-filled travelogue about a private bodyguard who is hired to protect a professional hitman convinced to testify against a bloodthirsty dictator at the International Criminal Court. The movie began with Private European Union based bodyguard Michael Bryce protecting a Japanese arms dealer leaving London. Unfortunately for Bryce, the arms dealer is shot in the head through the airplane window after boarding a plane. Because of this failure, Bryce's reputation declined within two years, until he found himself eking out a living protecting drug-addicted corporate executives in London.

During this time, the ruthless Belarus dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich has been put on trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. But thanks to Dukhovich's men assassinating potential witnesses, the prosecution has been unable to make headway in the case against him. The prosecution finally struck gold when they managed to make a deal with an incarcerated hitman named Darius Kincaid, who agreed to testify against Dukhovich in exchange for the release of his wife Sonia from prison. When Dukhovich's men managed to kill nearly the entire security detail escorting Kincaid from Manchester, England to the Hague in Amsterdam; the surviving guard, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel recruited ex-boyfriend Michael Bryce to serve as Kincaid's bodyguard. 

Upon the release of "THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD", it received mixed reviews from critics. They loved the screen chemistry between the two stars - Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. But many of them found the movie's narrative rather unoriginal. I must admit that I also found the plot unoriginal. An uptight, possibly "official" bodyguard or law enforcer escorting a criminal type across country? Reminds me of the 1988 movie, "MIDNIGHT RUN", the recent film "HOT PURSUIT" and scores of other action-adventure comedies. I had another problem with "THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD"and it had to do with the character Amelia Roussel. I found it difficult to believe that the same woman who managed to shoot it out with Dukhovich's thugs in order to protect Kincaid had to be rescued by Bryce, when the dictator's Interpol inside man tried to strangle her. After seeing Roussel in action earlier in the film, I would have preferred if she had rescued herself instead of depending upon one of the leading men to rescue her. Frustrating.

Otherwise, I enjoyed "THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD". It was not the best film I had seen during the summer of 2017. And it is certainly not the best action-adventure film I have ever seen. But I still enjoyed it. One, I liked the characters. Well, most of them. Two, aside from the last thirty minutes or so, the movie is basically a road trip . . . which I love. Three, the movie featured some first-rate action sequences, thanks to director Patrick Hughes. And four, the best aspect of "THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD" proved to be the two leads - Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. I do not know if the pair had ever worked with each other before. But I must admit that they really had a strong chemistry. Between Reynolds' portrayal of the uptight and proud Michael Bryce and Jackson's sardonic and very clever Darius Kincaid . . . hell, they were dynamite.

The movie featured some pretty strong supporting performances from the cast. My favorite performances came from √Člodie Yung, who portrayed Bryce's ex-girlfriend, the strong-willed Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel; Joaquim de Almeida as the slippery Interpol Assistant Director Jean Foucher; Richard E. Grant as the very nervous and funny drug-addicted corporate executive, Mr. Seifert; and especially a very hilarious Salma Heyek as Kincaid's temperamental wife, Sonia Kincaid. Gary Oldman portrayed the movie's main villain, Vladislav Dukhovich. He made a very effective villain. But my problem is that I did not find his performance particularly memorable. I found his performance a bit too subtle - especially in a movie that featured borderline over-the-top performances.

I found Jules O'Loughlin's cinematography rather lovely. His sharp and colorful photography brought out the best in his shots of Great Britain, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. And as I had stated earlier, I thought the action sequences were first-rate. But my two favorite sequences featured the Dukhovich thugs' first attempt to kill Kincaid in Manchester; their attempt to kill him in Amsterdam, which led to an excellent boat chase along the city's canals and the final action within the halls and on top of the Hague's rooftop. More importantly, Hughes did an excellent in maintaining a steady pace for the film.

What else is there to say about "THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD"? It was not a perfect film. Nor was it one of the best action-adventure comedies I have ever seen. But I cannot deny that it was entertaining film that not only maintained my interest, but also had me in stitches. And it was all due to a decent screenplay written by Tom O'Connor, lively direction by Patrick Hughes and a first-rate cast led by Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.

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