The Hitman’s Bodyguard (Lionsgate , R)

It is hard to tell when it started, but Hollywood is infatuated with “badass with a gun” movies. Perhaps it was Pierre Morel’s Taken that really got the ball rolling. Perhaps it is the outstanding success of superhero films, enticing filmmakers with smaller budgets to indulge in a slice of the cake. The Hitman’s Bodyguard sits comfortably with film fellows John Wick, The Accountant, The Equalizer, and Atomic Blonde, save one, in this case paramount, detail. The Hitman’s Bodyguard takes two highly trained killers who hate each other and makes them work together.

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is an Elite Protection Agent, a bodyguard for the world’s most notorious criminals. Or, at least, he was. Down on his luck and picking up smaller jobs he gets an urgent call from Agent Roussel (Elodie Yung), his Ex. She needs help escorting a witness to The Hague so he can testify against Belarusian Dictator and all-around awful human Vadislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Bryce’s initial reluctance gives way when Roussel promises restoring his lost AAA status. He arrives to discover that his mark, the man he will be acting bodyguard for, is none other than notorious hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a long-time rival of Bryce’s.

Reynolds has been deified by his portrayal of Deadpool and The Hitman’s Bodyguard finds him in familiar form. The wise-cracking veteran actor dashes through scenes with witty banter befitting an Edgar Wright screenplay. And while Samuel L. Jackson is a man who needs no introduction, it is refreshing to see him in an infrequent, if not wholly original role. Reynold’s sarcasm offset by Jackson’s no-nonsense “lock, stock” attitude complement each other extremely well, and that dynamic is further augmented by their comfort in the action genre.

Their journey to The Hague is wrought with explosions and laughs in fairly equal measure. Over the 24 hours the two enemies spend helping each other, a buddy comedy quickly materializes. The plot, though not entirely unique, finds individuality in character nuance. Finding out what makes Jackson’s hitman tick is done well, never ham-fisting the audience but also giving enough detail to instill actual curiosity, while Reynold’s hubris-laden bodyguard breaks down well under Jackson’s barrage of insults and in-your-face laughter.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an above average action flick with an above average sense of humor. Where it really stands out is in its open arithmetic of its concentric parts. Where other films with a solid cast may try a bit too hard to add depth or character with overly heady plots or convoluted scripts, The Hitman’s Bodyguard does a great job of knowing what it is, and staying in that wheelhouse. It’s almost as if the director and writer sat in a room and thought, “What if John Wick and The Accountant teamed up, but they absolutely hated each other?” The ensuing action is smash-mouth and precise, with comedic quality worked into the dough with tender love and care.

In the end, The Hitman’s Bodyguard won’t blow you away, but that doesn’t exactly appear to be its goal. It is two veteran action stars who are comedy prone, profanity fluent, and Marvel movie seasoned (as Deadpool and Nick Fury, just in case you were unaware), throwing shade, swearing profusely, and blowing up a lot of stuff along the way. It is fun for fun’s sake, with a spicy side of Salma Hayek. So grab a buddy or two, head to a dine-in, and enjoy with a couple of beers. | Caleb Sawyer

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