2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard was a rather enjoyable comedy that exalted Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson’s signature comedic styles brilliantly, so when news of a sequel were announced, I immediately became hyped for the next adventure with Michael Bryce (Reynolds) and Darius Kincaid (Jackson). In The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Darius gets kidnapped by a mob boss and his wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), finds Bryce, on sabbatical from bodyguarding after becoming unlicensed, to save him. The trio, however, get caught in an INTERPOL investigation after accidentally killing agent Bobby O’Neal (Frank Grillo)’s contact.
They must now help him locating shipping tycoon Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas), who plans to drill the European power grid infect it with a virus, as the European Union will impose more sanctions on Greece. While the film could’ve been a great continuation to an improbable chemistry between the two main characters, it quickly becomes an unfunny and underdeveloped sequel, featuring shoddy action sequences and cheap CGI.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard seems to forget that, without a compelling plot, the audience will never fully invest themselves in the picture. Of course, you have A-list actors such as Sam Jackson & Ryan Reynolds consistently riff off one another during the entire runtime, but that will become tedious rather quickly if you don’t have something to grip the audience in. Director Patrick Hughes (who helmed the first one) seems to think that, for audience members to have a great time, the film needs to be filled with mindless action and never-ending banter between Bryce and Kincaid. The film moves at an extremely rapid pace, from one action set piece to another, without the audience having the time to breathe or, should I say, comprehend why the protagonists are fighting.
It doesn’t help that none of the action sequences are any good: they’re either filled with jump-cuts and shaky camerawork to hide the obvious stunt doubles on display (most notably during a scene in which 84-year old Morgan Freeman fights 1-on-1. The stunt double is highly visible during multiple angles—even if Hughes does his best to hide him with smoke and jump-cuts) or with some of the most unconvincing CGI I’ve seen in a long time. If you’re not able to do big VFX-heavy action sequences without the scene’s “big” effects looking incredibly cheap and unfinished, then don’t do it. Focus on utilizing the actors that can do practical stunts and craft convincing sequences from there, whether be one-on-one fights and gunfights. The first film had a hefty amount of captivating car chases and action sequences. The sequel tries to up the ante by throwing more cars, more guns, more guards and more VFX during those car chases, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better, as, in this case, showcases the film’s lack of a big budget to make large-scale action sequences convincing.
The action scenes only serve as a distraction from the lack of a compelling story and antagonist. I mean, my God, when Antonio Banderas (as Aristotle Papadopoulos) shows up, with his slippers embroidered with his signature “A”, a bathrobe-esque gown and a magnificent wig reminiscent of some of the most despicable tycoons in the James Bond movies, the only thing that goes through your mind is “Yes!”, thinking you’ll get an iconic performance from one of the most expressive actors working today. Problem is: Papadopoulos is as clichéd as most undercooked villains are. His villainous plot is amazingly preposterous: infect the entirety of Europe (minus Greece) with a virus that’ll be implanted by using a large power drill to pierce into the European power grid.
Preposterous, because it feels way too precise, but also because his motivations are barely even clear. Most of the time we spend with him (before he inevitably meets Sonia, Darius and Michael) are one-minute scenes in which he orders his henchmen around (with the tired “Find them and kill them” lines, with his henchmen then saying “I’m sorry, sir, they got away” after predictably failing to catch them) and not much else. Why does he want to infect the entirety of Europe? Because they’ll impose sanctions on Greece. Ok, great, but why? Why does it matter for Papadopoulos to stop the sanctions from happening? Because he’s Greek? That’s it? It still isn’t enough for the audience to understand the bare minimum of the antagonist’s motivations, and for them to care enough about the mission at-hand.
With this, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is also painfully unfunny. Minus two laugh-out-loud sequences which both involve Salma Hayek’s character, many of the film’s comedic sequences feel uncomfortable, but not in an absurd kind of way. The material simply feels dated, with many of its comedic bits failing to stick the landing. We’ve all seen it before: undercover/disguise operations that goes terribly wrong, sexist jokes centring on a particularly cringe worthy character trait to try and replace the lack of riveting comedy.
He says it throughout most of his movies; and while he and Reynolds still manage to create a palpable buddy relationship once again, it still isn’t enough to hide the script’s inept material. Whenever Hughes wants to make a joke seem funnier than it is, he’ll just ask Jackson (or any other actor) to say *that* word, in the hopes that the audience will laugh. Hey, when Jackson added the same word at the end of “You wanna play games?” in Spiral, it worked, because it was used at the right moment for comedic effect.
This is the Saw franchise’s most known line, so why not use it differently to produce a different effect than its initial one? Darren Lynn Bousman knew how to use that word, but Hughes overuses it to the point where it becomes tired and uninspired. If you’re only recurring joke is the MF word, the audience will surely lose interest quickly, after realizing that The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard has nothing else to offer.
And that’s the film’s main problem: even with the best of intentions and featuring a highly talented cast of A-list stars who give their all, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’s screenwriting ineptitudes can’t save this film from being a mess—its story is amazingly paper-thin, with a plethora of badly choreographed and unimaginative action sequences to distract the audience with the fact that it’s missing a compelling plot, antagonist, and comedic bits that are actually funny. If you’re looking for big laughs and some action thrills, watch Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar if you haven’t. Now that is how you make a great comedy.