The summer movie season should end with a bang, so The Hitman’s Bodyguard arrives in theaters at the perfect time. As we have to start thinking about going back to school or getting in those final vacations before returning to work, how about some laughs, cartoonish violence and a whole lot of foul language to provide one last bit of enjoyment?
August at the movies has been pretty dull, beginning with The Dark Tower‘s disappointment and Detroit inexplicably being scheduled for a summer release. (The same could probably be said for The Glass Castle.) OK, Annabelle: Creation brought some scares, but where was the fun?
Leave it to Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds for some ridiculous, escapist joy.
Much of The Hitman’s Bodyguard relies on the banter and bickering between the two stars. At times, director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) leans on them too much, which slows down the breakneck pace of the film. But Jackson has such a gift with language — especially the profanities we love hearing him yell — and Reynolds is so good with a quick quip. It’s understandable that a director would just let those guys riff at times.
Though Reynolds gets top billing, probably because of his Deadpool stardom, and plays the title character, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is absolutely Jackson’s showcase and it’s a pleasure to watch him carry a movie. Jackson has been present in so many films during the past 20 years, but almost entirely in supporting roles. The most prominent of those has been Nick Fury in many of the Marvel films. But he’s also appeared in Django Unchained, RoboCop, Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Hateful Eight, The Legend of Tarzan, Kong: Skull Island and more. Should we include those Capital One ads?
Some of those roles seem beneath an actor of Jackson’s talent, but he has most certainly remained prominent in pop culture while putting in a bunch of work. He’s also established a persona, though doesn’t always show it in every movie. The Samuel L. Jackson we love is charming and funny, but also loud and angry when he’s trying to make a point, intimidate someone or thinks he’s been wronged. All of those traits and skills are utilized here.
And nobody has a gift with the word “motherfucker” like him. When Jackson says it, it’s like the word was invented for him. It’s an exclamation, an insult, and almost a term of endearment, depending on the situation. As Darius Kincaid, an international assassin who is the key witness against the dictatorial president of Belarus (Gary Oldman), Jackson wields “motherfucker” like one of the many pistols and rifles he’s so proficent with in his profession.
I honestly lost count of how many times Jackson says it in this movie, but expect some enterprising writer to track how many times that word comes out of his mouth. It has to be more than 20 (and that doesn’t count the times Reynolds and Salma Hayek, who plays Kincaid’s wife, says it), and that’s a low estimate. But that’s not a complaint. Again, Jackson is an artist with “motherfucker.” His mouth is the brush and our ears are the canvas.
Is Jackson overdoing it? Absolutely not. Whether the script by Tom O’Connor included the word that many times, Hughes asked for it, or Jackson just improvised it into so many of his lines, it doesn’t matter. This is a movie in which everything is overdone. The story is overflowing with gunshots, punches, kicks, explosions, car chases, car crashes and witty, rapid-fire dialogue. The Hitman’s Bodyguard earns every bit of its R-rating and has one hell of a fun time doing so.
Reynolds is also good as the straight man to Jackson’ s Type A personality. His Michael Bryce is extremely efficient in his work as a high-level bodyguard, considering every possible contingency in a plan to make sure there are no surprises when he’s protecting a client. He wears nice suits, drives fancy cars, lives in a sleek house that’s almost entirely floor-to-ceiling windows and keeps his firearms in a hidden panel with foam casing.
Most of that seemingly perfect existence falls apart when one of Bryce’s clients is assassinated, just minutes before he’s safely delivered. As a result, he loses the “Triple-A” rating that means so much to him and connotes elite status in his profession. Bryce has never been able to recover from that indignity, but has a chance to redeem himself when an ex-girlfriend and Interpol agent (Elodie Yung) hires him to protect Kincaid before he testifies. (A plan to transport Kincaid already went horribly wrong due to a leak within one of the many international agencies assigned to Kincaid’s case.)
Kincaid and Bryce have some history together, which you might figure given the international crime circles in which they travel. Bryce thinks that gives him an edge in knowing how his new client operates, but Kincaid is a quick study and knows exactly how to mess with his bodyguard mentally and psychologically. How well each does his job is one source of their comedic banter, but once Kincaid finds out that Bryce dated the Interpol agent assigned to him, he becomes a relationship counselor. Considering Kincaid is married to a feisty bombshell (Salma Hayek), he’s probably worth listening to.
No, The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t the best movie of the summer. It doesn’t even try to be. It’s entirely comfortable with what it is: a romp that revels in every bit of over-the-top violence and profanity that’s conveyed to the audience. This is an R-rated cartoon that isn’t meant to be taken seriously at all (and makes some amusing music choices for several inappropriate scenes). And everyone involved is in on the joke, wonderfully so.
As you watch this movie, remind yourself throughout that Samuel L. Jackson is 68 years old and marvel at how youthful he appears on screen. Sure, some well-placed stuntmen and camera tricks from Hughes and his crew make Jackson look good. But he is full of energy in this movie, clearly relishing a leading role that allows him to be utterly engaging and charming (something the movie frequently uses for humor), while also tough and formidable. And don’t forget the language (most of it foul) he’s allowed to wield like a master. No one else could have played Darius Kincaid so well.