The 400-Word Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard
By Sean Collier
August 22, 2017
If Snakes on a Plane taught us one thing (and even that may be generous), it is this: People really, really like it when Samuel L. Jackson swears loudly.
Of course, we already knew that; we’ve known that since Pulp Fiction. But when Jackson expressed, quite pointedly, his frustration with the quantity of serpents on his aircraft, it proved that he can sell a movie with little more than a blue exclamation. Bogart lighting a cigarette, Monroe flashing a smile, Samuel L. Jackson swearing. Iconic cinema.
(I know I’m overselling this a bit, but just go with it.)
So while The Hitman’s Bodyguard is built around little other than Jackson’s ability to play four letters like a violin, not much more is needed.
He plays a convicted hitman with information on a embattled despot (Gary Oldman); if he goes to testify, his wife (Salma Hayek) will be set free. Of course, there are very, very many people who would like to kill him along the way, hence the presence of a slightly rusty bodyguard (Reynolds) and a underqualified but tenacious Interpol agent (Elodie Yung).
The formula is actually more complicated than you’d expect; The Hitman’s Bodyguard has the bones of an buddy-cop flick, but has more than a bit of road movie in it, as well. And unlike weaker action-comedies (anything starring Kevin Hart comes to mind), the action portion of it holds up; a chase sequence through the streets and canals of Amsterdam is particularly memorable.
To be clear, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is quite rough around the edges. This is the third feature-length effort from director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3 was his), and while he seems to have some skill at choreographing action sequences, his range is limited beyond that; he didn’t seem to notice, for instance, that the cinematography and sound in the film are notably poor. Writer Tom O’Connor is similarly inexperienced; a mostly shelved 2012 actioner called Fire with Fire is his only other listed credit.
Could The Hitman’s Bodyguard have become a true classic with a more seasoned creative team? Perhaps. But maybe not; the ceiling for a two-hander action romp is only so high, and The Hitman’s Bodyguard very nearly brushes against it. Reynolds keeps up with Jackson quite well, and Hayek and Oldman are perfect; nevertheless, it is fundamentally all about the expressive face and endlessly foul mouth of Samuel L. Jackson.
My Rating: 7/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark