Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (Lionsgate, R)

It has been over a year since I have been in a movie theater. I imagine that is the case for a lot of people reading this. As we start to creep and crawl back out of our homes and apartments, into the now unfamiliar spaces we used to frequent, theaters are at the top of the list. I wasn’t heartbroken when the initial lockdown started, confident that most films would find a way to release despite theaters being mostly closed. In some ways we saw exactly that, but upon returning to the theater, I remembered what I was missing. My first film in the theater in over a year being Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard was an…interesting experience.

My fist review for this site was The Hitman’s Bodyguard back in 2017, a fact that I discovered while writing this and that reminded me that time is a cruel and vague keeper. There is no way it has been nearly 4 years…but apparently it has…so join me on this existential journey.

The first film in this franchise (two films does not a franchise make, but we will come back to that) was a fun romp with a pretty refreshing premise, both in the film itself and as a concept. A professional bodyguard hired to protect a hitman who has antagonized him his entire life? Novel, fun, count me in. The fact that it was essentially a movie about Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 1 & 2) and Samuel L. Jackson (Everything…specifically Avengers) hanging out as themselves? Even better. It’s great when an actor has reached a level of popularity that they can be the entire reason people go see a movie. Ryan and Sam (I hope he doesn’t mind that I called him Sam) have been drawing fans into seats to see them for years. Leaning into Reynolds patented (or at least perfected) smarmy jackassery and Jackson’s penchant for profane tmesis of the mother-loving variety, makes a great “buddy cop” comedy. Did the first film need a sequel? No. But here we are.

This film, as the title would suggest, makes Reynolds’ Michael Bryce return to the side of his greatest frenemy at the behest of Darius Kincaid’s (Jackson) wife Sonia, played by the wall of force that is Salma Hayek who, despite getting older as humans are wont to do, seems to have forgotten that we have to age as well. Bryce, recently on a therapist-ordered sabbatical that has sent him to Italy, made him swear off guns, and begin leaving voicemails for his future-self, quickly finds his plans violently interrupted.

Here is the thing about this movie. It isn’t bad. Like, in any way. But…it also isn’t great in any way. I could go into more detail of this film’s plot but the reality is, no one in the theater is there for the damn plot. Maybe the best thing going for this movie is, for the most part, it is extremely aware of this fact.

Bryce is whisked away on a rescue mission by Sonia to save, you guessed it, Darius. When they get there Darius is, you guessed it, confused as to why his wife brought his mortal enemy to save him. All the while, Bryce does everything he can to honor his sabbatical that has clearly been cut short, not just taken to intermission. This rescue mission then ties the trio to a series of events far larger than them. There is your movie.

But as I stated before, that isn’t why you are going to this movie. So let me speak on why you are. Salma Hayek’s increased role in this film is absolutely perfect and takes nothing away from the rapid-fire comedy that pours from the Reynolds/Jackson duo. Hayek’s Sonia holds her own, often even snapping the spotlight back onto her. There is a particular exchange between Sonia and Bryce on a ferry that literally made me cackle out loud.

Bryce and Darius get up to shooty-shenanigans, of course, throughout the film (spoiler alert…Bryce’s “I’m not using guns” literally CAN’T last in this film. I mean the poster has him holding a gun soooo…), and while there is an astronomically high amount of “Bad Guys Have Bad Aim” Syndrome, of course there is.

Speaking of bad guys! Did you know this movie also has Antonio Banderas (Mask of Zorro, Automata) in it? Neither did I! While that may seem harsh, Banderas’ villain the “Greek” Aristotle (yeah…) Papadopolous is on screen a grand total of 5 minutes, and shares the screen with our buddies Bryce and Darius for all of ninety seconds before the finale. In fact, throughout this film there is a conflict creeping along that is neither central enough, nor nuanced enough to really garner much interest from the viewer. Again, that sounds condemning, but I wasn’t sitting in my seat expecting to get a rousing villainous speech from a Hannibal Lecter-type. I wanted a guy that moved the plot forward enough to cause the two leads to, you know, keep shooting their way through waves of really highly trained, but poorly performing, faceless baddies. It is a bit unfortunate that it leaves Banderas as a sort of window decoration, but he’s great in his short time. So it kind of comes out a wash.

Morgan Freeman (if “Everything” had a bigger, older brother…specifically Se7en, Invictus) also makes an appearance, leading this film’s actual B-plot. I’m sorry. That is all you get. I will not spoil that for you. Like Banderas, Freeman’s performance is great. Is it necessary? Not at all. But seeing his face is a delight, and why the hell not!?

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is a lot of fun. Do you sort of have to turn your brain off for a lot of that fun? Yes. Should you have gone in expecting anything different? No. Bad guy guns shoot like short-barreled paintball guns (read: inaccurate as f-…heck), cars crash into walls and then explode (I laughed out loud), Ryan Reynolds will get hit by too many cars to be alive let alone running around, and you will laugh the entire time.

Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek pump out comedy throughout this explosive romp, bolstered by appearances from Banderas, Freeman, and Umbrella Academy’s Tom Hopper (for a few minutes of screen time). Sit down, turn your film critic brain off, and put your seatbelt on. This is a hell of a fun, dumb, very good, silly, funny, stupid, explosive time. | Caleb Sawyer

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