The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

  • Time: 111 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy
  • Director: Patrick Hughes
  • Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Richard E. Grant


The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.


  • The Hitman’s Bodyguard may be a been-there, done-that action comedy, but its predictability doesn’t detract from the fact that it is one of the most enjoyable films of the year. With Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson starring in what is essentially a Midnight Run retread, The Hitman’s Bodyguard delivers charisma, laughs and thrills in spades.

    Reynolds is Michael Bryce, head of a self-described “Triple-A rated” personal protection organisation whose personal and professional life falls apart when his latest charge takes a bullet to the forehead. Cut to two years later and he’s shuttling around the likes of Richard E. Grant’s coked-up white-collar criminal in his economy car and bemoaning the loss of his prized rating. Former girlfriend and Interpol agent Amelia (Elodie Yung), who shows up on his caller ID as “Pure Evil,” offers him a chance at redemption by helping her escort Jackson’s Darius Kincaid from his Manchester prison cell to the International Criminal Court in The Netherlands.

    Bryce is understandably reluctant. For one thing, killer-for-hire Kincaid has tried to kill him more than two dozen times before. For another, where Bryce plans everything to the tee (“Boring is best” is his mantra), Kincaid is a go-with-the-flow loose cannon who shoots first, asks later and will literally throw himself into any situation. Yet Kincaid is a valuable asset as he is the star witness in the case against Belarusian war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman, basically resurrecting his character from The Professional). His safety is key as the evidence against Dukhovich is not strong enough and almost every other witness has been eliminated. So Bryce and Kincaid do their best to not kill one another whilst dodging all the goons that Dukhovich throws their way.

    Director Patrick Hughes certainly knows his way around an action sequence, staging car chases, shootouts and hand-to-hand combat with aplomb. It’s a minor mystery why more filmmakers don’t shoot action set pieces in Amsterdam since its narrow streets, canals and picturesque houses lend themselves very well to such relatively controlled chaos – to wit: the exciting chase scene that has Kincaid in a boat, Bryce on a motorbike, and Dukhovich’s henchmen in cars. It’s ridiculously over-the-top and yet so unimpeachably entertaining, which is exactly what the whole of The Hitman’s Bodyguard is. There’s always something going on in every frame – whether it be cars exploding, bones and jokes being cracked, bullets piercing flesh or axes and chains being deployed.

    Then there are Reynolds and Jackson, the former with his patented exasperated cool and the latter stealing the film with his singular swagger, priceless expressions, and symphonic skill with a swear word. The whirlwind that is Salma Hayek, as Kincaid’s salty and feisty wife, gives Jackson a run for his money. The flashback to their meet-cute in a Mexican bar is a hilarious example of love at first fight – he’s as impressed with her violent tendencies as he is with her ample assets. “When she severed that dude’s carotid artery with a beer bottle,” he reminisces, “I knew right then.”

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  • The Hitman’s Bodyguard draws on the classic romantic comedy plot where two bickering opposites discover harmony in each other.
    It was familiar safe even back when Shakespeare unleashed Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (circa 1598; wow, even before TV). Antagonists become lovers. Or at least adequate room-mates, e.g. all The Odd Couples.
    Hitman Kincaid kills the famous and ace security agent Bryce protects them. That makes them opposites, with Bryce apparently enjoying the moral superiority.
    They have a violent history, with complications. Kincaid accidentally wounded Bryce in one assignment. When Kincaid stumbled into another target and scored a miraculous hit on a Japanese drug-dealer, he unwittingly ruined Bryce’s confidence and career. Also his love-life, because Bryce assumed the killing of his client was due to his lover Amelia’s betrayal.
    In this narrative Amelia — an Interpol officer— coerces Bryce into guarding the notorious Kincaid to ensure his testimony against a Russian crime boss at The Hague. Kincaid finds any security assistants an unnecessary encumbrance. He does better on his own. He survives all the massive assaults that eliminate his other guards. There are many.
    Of course the two antagonists develop a respect and affection for each other. Indeed Kincaid acknowledges his unwanted partner’s effectiveness. He also helps Bryce win back Amelia, first by unheeded counsel, then by persuading her. Kincaid dangerously pauses his own mission to save the captured Bruce from torture.
    So the mercenary serial killer has a heart. He even his own romantic weak spot, the wild Sonia, who has been jailed as a trap for Kincaid. Only to secure her release does he agree to testify.
    Both women are strong. Amelia fights off an attack by her boss, the Russian mole. Kincaid meets Sonia when she wins a (co-ed) Mexican bar fight. She is best defined later, when she sits in the serenity of the Lotus position while spewing obscenities at Kincaid’s absence and at the men responsible for it. Sonia is so dominant her larger cell-mate cowers in the corner whenever commanded.
    Both men are given the strong women to assure the viewer that there’s nothing effeminate in their bromance. America’s penchant for tightly-bonded male heroes often suggests a suppressed homosexual relationship, from Tom and Huck down to Starsky and Hutch, Butch and Sundance, etc., etc. They’re given at least one hetero interest to absolve them.
    Kincaid’s virtue is telegraphed by the tattoo on his neck and arm. The image of crows departing a skeletal tree evokes his first kill. We see that tree and birds when the teen-age Kincaid murders the brute who killed Kincaid’s pastor father. That set Kincaid’s career path.
    The tattoo counteracts the Biblical mark of Cain, which brands the murderer as evil. This contract killer snuffs only the evil, whom the supposed hero Bryce is paid to protect. The moral advantage has shifted.
    This intelligent comic thriller has two driving energies. One is the virtually non-stop physical action, the chases and attacks. The other is the verbal intensity, comic, profane, often graphically poetic. Both advance the bonding of apparent but not true opposites.

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