Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with a movie being perfectly acceptable and no more. Not every film needs to aim for awards season glory, critical acclaim or billions of box office dollars while trying to reinvent the wheel, and Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is one of those titles that’s just… there. It isn’t great, but it’s not terrible either. It exists while you’re watching it and once the credits roll, it may well never cross your mind ever again.
Dropping the “The” from the title doesn’t make it any less clunky, but Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard isn’t particularly interested in being anything other than a vapid star vehicle, but on the plus side those stars are certainly having fun. The plot picks up with Ryan Reynolds’ Michael Bryce in therapy having been disavowed as a AAA bodyguard, which becomes a running gag for the second film in a row, despite the fact it’s never once been funny. His therapist suggests he go on vacation to put his career in the rear-view for a little while, only for Salma Hayek’s Sonia Kincaid to show up just as he gets comfortable, shooting her way through a crowd of henchmen.
This leads to another one of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard‘s nauseating recurring jokes about Bryce being on sabbatical, and you won’t be shocked to find out that none of the repeated attempts at humor really land, and there are a ton of them. That being said, when you throw Reynolds, Hayek and Samuel L. Jackson into a three-handed road trip buddy action comedy, the very least you’d expect is some decent interplay and a couple of big laughs, which the movie just about manages, although you get the distinct impression it’s more to do with improvisation between the leads rather than the script, which is pretty much useless.
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Antonio Banderas plays Mafia kingpin Aristotle Papadopolous, who wants to use a diamond-tipped drill to compromise a central data hub and unleash a computer virus across the continent that’ll wreak havoc on the entire European Union, so he can restore Greece to its former glories as the peak of Western civilization, or something like that. It’s never really explained in great detail, because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter in the slightest.
This is all about actors you like doing the things you like to see them do, and that’s the one area where Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard really manages to deliver. Reynolds is the neurotic, sarcastic and wise-cracking foil to the over-the-top duo of Jackson and Hayek. The former essentially plays himself and offers a string of variations on the word “motherf*cker” as you’d expect him to do, while for the first half of the movie Hayek literally does almost nothing but run around shouting obscenities and shooting people in the face. Like the majority of the character beats, it’s funny the first couple of times, but then it starts to get old.
Richard E. Grant shows up for about ten seconds and for no reason but still gets his name in the opening credits, Morgan Freeman delivers some exposition in those syrupy tones of his in a role that’s probably best kept a secret until you see the movie for yourself, while Frank Grillo is wasted as the standard government suit tasked with relaying exposition. Grillo is a proven action star that could have been a huge asset to Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard in another capacity, but instead he’s saddled with a one-note gig as Interpol’s Bobby O’Neill.
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The entirety of the agent’s arc is that he wants to go back home to Boston, and Grillo at least attempts the accent for at least a couple of scenes before dropping it, but he’s quite clearly a man born and raised in the Bronx. He also gets a female Scottish translator who he immediately calls an asshole, then labels as William Wallace and Sean Connery in quick succession, but from that point on the would-be running gag never gets mentioned again. In fact, there are countless bits that get set up for multiple uses only to fall flat every time, which includes but is in no way limited to; Jackson’s testicles, Hayek’s boobs, the couple’s inability to start a family, Bryce’s daddy issues, bodyguard rivalries and more.
It’s the sort of hollow studio-produced effort that occupies a strange space, in that it’s evidently a paycheck gig for a lot of the talent but they clearly had a great time jetting off to glamorous locales to shoot it, and the performances of the central trio just about paper over some of the more notable cracks. Patrick Hughes’ direction is functional at best without coming close to being exciting, dynamic, inventive or remotely original, which sums up Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard in a nutshell.
Everything about Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is okay, from the fight choreography and car chases to the gunplay and visual effects, which is probably a compliment. It could have turned out a lot worse, but it also wouldn’t have taken much effort on the part of the key creative players to make something a whole lot better with the exact same premise. It’s loud, foul-mouthed, violent and bloody, which often feels ill-at-ease with the overall tone, which is more like an R-rated comedy with action elements than the other way around. It’s not high art, and it’s not going to go down as the worst movie of the year either, but you could argue it’s better to take a swing and a miss than settle for mediocrity.