TL;DR – A good case study on why it is so important to get your casting right
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
P.S. – There is an end credit thingy
Making a film is a very difficult process, at every point, there are decisions that you need to make, some of which can make or break your film, and you might not even know what the outcome is until the film is released. Should you rewrite your dark realistic film to be a comedy week’s out from shooting, it’s a big risk, but it is one that I think made The Hitman’s Bodyguard a better film, or at least a film that suited its cast much better. Though before we go on, while I kind of liked it, you need to know it is a type of film that I’m pretty sure the f@#$ counter is in triple digits, and you probably know just from that if this is a movie for you.
So to set the scene, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is an AAA rated executive protection agent, which means it is his job to protect his clients and get them safely to where they are going. This was, of course, all going well until one day after seeing his client safely onto his plane, all is fine, and then out of nowhere his client is killed by a sniper. Well flash forward a few years and Michael has fallen on hard times in the wake of his failure. He has left his girlfriend Amelia (Élodie Yung) because he blames her for leaking the name of his client, he’s lost his AAA rating, and now he’s doing bit jobs to get by. Well at the same time Amelia is tasked by Interpol to escort Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to testify against the former leader of Belarus Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) who is on trial for ethnic cleansing. Well Dukhovich is not a man to take a threat like that lying down, and since one of the heads of Interpol Jean Foucher (Joaquim de Almeida) has given him the route the convoy is taking, he attacks it and Amelia is barely able to get Kincaid out alive. Well now Amelia knows that Interpol is compromised, so there is only one thing she can do if she wants to get Darius to the trial, well that is to work outside of the agency, cut to Bryce and Kincaid teaming up on a shooting tour of Europe.
This is honestly a very stock standard set up, it is you basic buddy cop comedy, Bryce is the straight-laced by the book character whose motto is ‘boring is best’, while Kincaid is a fly by the seat of your pants and see what happens kind of guy, basically Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Neutral the movie. But just about every part of this film’s story calls on really stock standard tropes, and they don’t hide it very well, and because I am going to discuss some of these now, well there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead. We have things like at one point Kincaid asked Bryce if he has ever taken a bullet for a client, well guess what happens before the end of the film. So yes we have two people with different ways of life learning from each other, yes we have a standard love story, yes we have a race before a tight deadline, and of course, every reference made at the start of the film will be called back to by the end. In many respects, this is the most by the numbers film I have seen in quite a while, but somehow it works when by all measures it shouldn’t. Why is that?
Well, simply The Hitman’s Bodyguard shows why it is so important to get your casting right, because what elevated it from being a stock standard meh film is the chemistry between the cast. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are a riot together on screen and they elevate what would have been bland dialogue. Indeed it is hard to pick who is out doing who in this movie with everyone just owning every scene they are in. Indeed, I am sure Salma Hayek and Gary Oldman were told to do whatever they liked, and they took the opportunity to let loose, I mean who does a better bad guy in this era than Gary Oldman. Because of this, the movie is hilarious at times, as all the cast bounce off each other, metaphorically and literally speaking. There were times when the whole cinema was in stitches.
When it comes to the action, overall I thought it was good, it did get a bit choppy at times, but overall it had a kind of Man from UNCLE (review) feel to it, which I liked. They made good use of the locations they were shooting in, I mean if you are in Amsterdam you might as well make the most of the canals. Though there were a couple of times when you could see the CGI in places with the odd car and boat, which probably needed a little more work. As well as this, there was this odd moment where it really looked like they had filmed some action the background, then Ryan Reynolds on a green screen and composited them together. However, if you stay around until the end you’ll see that it was all filmed live in-camera, so I’m not sure what happened, it might have been the cinema I viewed it in but something was off.
Now the one thing that was really interesting with The Hitman’s Bodyguard was how it incorporated the International Criminal Court into the movie. The ICC is one of the international institutions that is helping to regulate the international order by providing accountability to individual actions. So it was good to see it represented here, as it helps to increase its public presence. However, there was a number of throughway comments that show the writers didn’t have a complete handle on what the Court does and how it works, but that is a minor gripe. Though an interesting fact, this would actually put Vladislav Dukhovich as the first person outside of Africa to be publicly indicted by the ICC.
In the end, I found that I enjoyed The Hitman’s Bodyguard much more than I was expecting, due to the commitment of the cast and filmmakers to make the best film they could. It was funny, had great action, and had moments when it was almost profound, you just need to be ok with it being very profane.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Directed by – Patrick Hughes
Written by – Tom O’Connor
Music by – Atli Örvarsson
Cinematography by – Jules O’Loughlin
Edited by – Jake Roberts
Starring – Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Élodie Yung, Salma Hayek, Gary Oldman, Joaquim de Almeida, Tine Joustra, Sam Hazeldine, Rod Hallett, Yuri Kolokolnikov & Georgie Glen
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R