Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard wastes its stars in an overly dramatic comedy
In which Samuel L. Jackson gets an addiction to unnecessary cursing and giving moral lessons in the middle of a shooting.
Why is it so difficult to make a good action-comedy? You could assume that the basic buddy-cop film formula was relatively easy. Have two funny actors with very different personalities, lots of action and that’s it! Just look at the action-comedies from the 80s and 90s; Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour and Bad Boys all follow the same concept: a serious and dedicated cop must partner up with a reckless rookie, hilarity ensures.
It is therefore easy to see the appeal of The Hitman’s Bodyguard. We have two people with different personalities and backgrounds; a funny hitman played by Samuel L. Jackson and a slightly more serious bodyguard played by Ryan Reynolds who must protect him. Who thought this was a good idea?
The issue from the get go is that the film has no characters, only movie stars. No matter how many times someone refers to Samuel L. Jackson’s character as Darius Kincaid, it is impossible to think of him as someone other than Samuel L. Jackson. He plays only a parody of himself, like the personification of his greatest hits. But he does says the word “motherfucker” like there’s no tomorrow, so I guess that’s ok?
By now everyone knows Samuel L. Jackson likes to say “motherfucker”… a lot. But after the 99th time in the span of 30 minutes it gets tiresome, and the laughs stop. And it isn’t only him. Salma Hayek who plays Kincaid’s wife doesn’t get to do much, except cursing as much as Jackson in repetitive scenes where she insults prison guards.
There is a good film hidden somewhere in The Hitman’s Bodyguard. It is no surprise that Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds have great chemistry and that both are very funny actors. If you enjoy 90s action-comedies with lots of one-liners, maybe this film is for you. Reynolds gets to repeat much of what made Deadpool such a success, though the result isn’t as funny.
However, it is immediately noticeable that the film wasn’t made as a comedy. Many funny scenes get interrupted by moral lessons and talks about the morality of a hitman, and no one wants that in an action-comedy.
According to Reynolds, The Hitman’s Bodyguard was originally meant to be a serious action drama. But as soon as he and Jackson were hired, the script was rewritten to accommodate the two stars. The result is a film that changes from 10 “motherfuckers” per second while people shoot at each other, to a romantic drama about a man unable to tell the woman he loves how he feels about her.
The other issue with the film is how ugly it looks. Cinematographer Jules O’Loughlin chooses to color grade the film in a way that makes it look like they poured Vaseline on the camera. The result is a film that looks like you are looking through a dirty window. This gets in the way of most action scenes where not only the shaky camera makes I hard to know what’s happening, but also the slower scenes are blurry and hard to see.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a film made to be seen while drinking. A film you would never watch along, but which you could enjoy watching with lots of friends who constantly make fun of how dumb the film actually is.