If ever there was a film that enthusiastically subscribed to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ school of thought, it’s Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. But after the dreadful past year and a half we’ve all had, there’s something to be said for indulging in the things that put a smile on your face – even if they don’t break the genre trope mould, or even make a decent attempt to. Maybe my cinematic standards are down after the dearth of new releases but Patrick Hughes’ sequel to The Hitman’s Bodyguard is exactly the kind of doesn’t-take-itself-too-seriously action-comedy movie to see out the summer with.
Reuniting once again are bodyguard-for-hire Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and his nemesis-turned-ally Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), as they team up to stop Antonio Banderas’ Aristotle Papadopoulos – a megalomaniac tycoon and obvious style disciple of Liberace – from launching a devastating terror attack on Europe. Also along for the ride from London to Italy is Salma Hayek’s Sonia, Darius’ wife, who takes the phrase ‘potty mouth’ to a whole new level. With Darius and Sonia alternating between bickering about having a baby and trying to make one, and Michael on an ill-timed sabbatical from using guns, it’s safe to say that things don’t exactly go to plan.
The first third of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is a bit of a painful watch. The jokes don’t come as quickly as they should, and the three lead characters spend most of their time shouting and screaming at each other. Bryce and Kincaid’s back-and-forth banter was a large part of why the first film was such a quick-witted success, but adding Sonia’s passionate effing and blinding into the mix is too much. Thankfully, once the characters calm down and actually start working together, the film finds its action comedy groove.
When writers don’t change the formula, it’s inevitable that the humour won’t feel as fresh the second time around, but the script is held together because of the chemistry between odd-couple Reynolds and Jackson. And it’s genuinely difficult to resist Ryan Reynolds’ charisma and exceptional comic timing. His character Bryce is at once brilliantly capable and pitifully vulnerable – and the sequel briefly explores the reason behind his on-going PTSD (a backstory involving Morgan Freeman as his stepdad and a childhood trauma that’s so ludicrous I can’t even bring myself to put it into words). Bryce’s uptight hysteria is offset by Darius’ trademark unflustered coolness in the face of danger. They’re a great team when they’re not trying to kill each other, and it’s a genuine joy to see Reynolds and Jackson flexing their action muscles.
Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas – who’ve previously starred together in the likes of Desperado and Once Upon A Time in Mexico – definitely draw the short straw with their caricature characters. They’re walking stereotypes whose purpose is to push Bryce and Kincaid into yet another dangerous mission to save the world, and each other. But when actors are so clearly having such a blast in these over-the-top, madcap roles, you might just – like I did – find yourself being unwittingly carried away with the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
There’s no getting around the lazy script and the maddening squabbling at the beginning, but if you love action comedies with excessive gunfire, big explosions, reckless car chases, endless near misses and a charismatic central duo who are as likely to kill one another as they are to save each other, then Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard offers plenty of light relief from the heaviness of real life. And sometimes that’s exactly the kind of movie you need.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is out on digital, DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD now.