The best action/comedies fulfill a special role in the hearts of genre lovers. They’re usually lighter fare by their very nature, but when everything clicks the result can be magical as big laughs and thrilling action collide in an explosion of fun. Unfortunately for all involved, from the filmmakers to the audience, not a single damn thing clicks in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. A sequel to 2017’s surprise hit, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the new film takes elements that work moderately well in the first and squeezes them dry of anything resembling wit, personality, or entertainment.
A bodyguard is nothing without his official certification, and Michael (Ryan Reynolds) is nothing after losing his thanks to a bullet fired by his old “friend” Darius (Samuel L. Jackson). Therapy isn’t really helping, but the frustrated psychiatrist does make two suggestions — refrain from killing people, and take a vacation. The former bodyguard heeds both instructions and heads off on vacation in search of peace and quiet, but neither is on the menu for his foreseeable future (or ours). His tranquility is interrupted by Sonia (Salma Hayek), Darius’ wife, who needs his help rescuing her husband from kidnappers. A begrudging Michael goes along for the ride, but soon the argumentative trio is roped into helping stop a Greek billionaire named Aristotle (the decidedly not Greek Antonio Banderas) from damaging the European Union as revenge for economic sanctions.
It’s no exaggeration to say that The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is one of the most aggressively obnoxious studio releases in a long, long time. Even fans of the first film, a group of which I consider myself a member, will find themselves tested by the sequel’s incessant need for volume and cruelty. The three leads return, but none of them manage even an inkling of the fun they delivered their first go around. Add to that jokes that fall flat, an abundance of weak CG, and action that’s both repetitive and immediately forgettable, and the resulting mess is an unlikable and ugly film.
All three main players ramp up elements of both their characters and their own personas to untenable degrees, and then they maintain it for the film’s entire running time. There’s no growth, nuance, or depth here, and instead we’re given annoying characters exaggerated poorly for humorous effect — only the humor never survives the process.
Reynolds keeps the snark but plays Michael as an especially passive Charlie Brown for the bulk of the film. Jokes are made at his expense, he’s hit by cars for the lols, the couple abuses him for their pleasure, and he just takes it all. It’s meant to be funny on its face — look at Reynolds being mistreated! hilarious! — but it’s already tiresome by the first ten minutes. Jackson’s performance is equally one-note but on the other end of the spectrum as Darius spouts insults and verbal assaults with abandon. He’s a jerk who’s never as entertaining as he thinks he is. Hayek gets the worst of it, though, as Sonia spends the film yelling, screaming, and being every bit as unlikable as her husband.
Director Patrick Hughes returns having fully committed to tying his career to big, dumb, action/comedies after his smart and far more restrained debut, Red Hill (2010), but it feels like his enthusiasm has waned considerably with The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Action sequences blend together into a dull grind that just adds to the noise of the cast’s loud belligerence, and not a damn one of them manages to thrill, surprise, or entertain. Shootouts see the trio landing every bullet while hundreds of bad guys couldn’t even hit the ocean from the beach, and car chase antics are neutered through CG and erratic editing.
The script for an action/comedy should never see its narrative become the primary focus, and that’s certainly not the case here. Returning writer Tom O’Connor is joined by Brandon Murphy & Phillip Murphy (this is the duo’s first produced script, but they have six others currently in development), but the best their three minds can concoct is some nonsense about EMP bombs, secret coordinates kept in a briefcase — seriously, coordinates are just numbers, right? — and lots of insults. It’s all just so very tiring.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard wastes a few other players including Richard E. Grant, Frank Grillo (who speaks half his dialogue via ADR), and apparently Gary Oldman (who is in the film per IMDB but I’ll be damned if I can remember him). One other venerated actor appears later in the film bringing with him the only real chuckle, but I won’t spoil that discovery for you as it will feel good to giggle after an hour of silence. Only Banderas takes full advantage of his screen time to just have fun and role-play as a lightweight Bond villain, but while he’s having a blast it’s not enough to carry over to viewers.
This is a disappointing film all around and one of the worst action/comedy sequels in years. Not that it started from similar heights, but The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is essentially the Lethal Weapon 4 of its respective franchise, so yeah, it’s bad. You can’t really blame the actors for saying yes to an all-expense paid European vacation, but you’ll want to.
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