The world's top protection agent (Ryan Reynolds) is called upon to guard the life of his mortal enemy, one of the world's most notorious hit men (Samuel L. Jackson). The relentless bodyguard and manipulative assassin have been on the opposite end of the bullet for years, and are thrown together for a wildly outrageous 24 hours. During their raucous and hilarious adventure from England to the Hague, they encounter high-speed car chases, outlandish boat escapades, and a merciless Eastern European dictator (Gary Oldman) who is out for blood. Salma Hayek joins the mayhem as Jackson's equally notorious wife.
"Thank God you're here, I don't know what I would have done without you."
When a great movie establishes a genre standard, it's tough for other movies to break away from the mold. It worked great once. It still worked for a parade of imitators - so why change things up now? The Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson action comedy vehicle The Hitman's Bodyguard runs through every play in the Midnight Run playbook - for better or worse. While the comedy is sharp, the action can feel tacked on and only works to keep the film's leads from talking to each other, which is the strength of this paint-by-the-number endeavor.
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is, or rather was, a Triple-A Rated protection agent capable of protecting any high-level target that needed protection. After his last client got assassinated right before his eyes, that Triple-A Rating isn't worth a whole hell of a lot. After slumming it protecting coked-out investment bankers, Michael's redemption is just around the corner whether he likes it or not. His old flame Interpol Agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) and her team are ambushed protecting international contract killer Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) and she needs his help.
The mission is simple. Michael transports Kincaid from London to the Haig in order to testify against dictatorial despot Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) who is being charged with war crimes. The problem is, Interpol has a mole and there is an entire team of assassins out to kill Kincaid and anyone who happens to be standing too close to him when the bullets fly. While armed killers would be an obstacle for most people, for Kincaid and Michael, the only real obstacle is not killing each other.
The Hitman's Bodyguard is a classic case of the final product perhaps not quite measuring up to expectations. That first poster that made fun of the classic Bodyguard poster featuring Ryan Reynolds carrying Samuel L. Jackson like he was Whitney Houston. I didn't see a trailer. I didn't need to. That image alone was enough to sell me on the idea of a hilarious action comedy. I wish I could say that flick itself matched the image in my head. I probably should have watched a trailer. There's an odd pacing to The Hitman's Bodyguard that just doesn't quite add up. The film's obvious strengths are Reynolds and Jackson and their ability to quip and insult one another. So why does the film work so hard to keep them apart?
Going back to Midnight Run as an example of how to do this sort of film right, you keep your central characters together virtually at all times. De Niro's Jack and Grodin's The Duke are joined at the hip from nearly minute one of the film all the way through to the end. Their antagonistic relationship not only makes up a bulk of the great comedy, it also defines their characters and why them being together is important in the first place. it gives them a place to go with the characters. The Hitman's Bodyguard, on the other hand, is content to take numerous deviations away from the central characters. It takes so long for Michael and Kincaid to meet that you almost forget they're in the same movie. On top of that, there are so many time-wasting flashbacks and numbing action sequences that it almost feels like the film ran out of dialogue for these two great actors to share.
I won't say that I wasn't entertained by The Hitman's Bodyguard because I was. I laughed more than I didn't. There are some great moments, but those few slices of greatness don't add up to a satisfying whole. When Reynolds and Jackson are on screen, everything runs pretty smoothly. But if you're looking for a truly clever and unique action comedy, this isn't it. It's pretty clunky and wastes its best assets for far too long. At nearly two hours, thirty minutes of that wasted time could easily have been cut and we'd be left with the lean meat that makes the good stuff great. The Hitman's Bodyguard is an action comedy that often forgets how and when to be genuinely funny. When it's good, it's hilarious. When it's bad, it's a rough patch of road.
When Jackson and Reynolds are allowed to just do their thing and mercilessly insult one another, the film is hilarious. When the film decides to show us Salma Hayek's prison cell and how she forces her obese cellmate to stand in the corner, the comedy grinds to a dead halt. Why is Gary Oldman even in this thing in the first place if all you're going to do with a performer of his ability is have him sit in a room? Even the film's action sequences - while impressively staged - have a sort of by-the-numbers feel to them that they're not very exciting or even necessary. Why do we endure so many whiz-cut fisticuff hand slap elbow jab bang-bang action scenes? This isn't a Bourne movie.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rayThe Hitman's Bodyguard arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set. Pressed onto a BD-50 disc, the discs are housed in a two-disc eco-friendly Blu-ray case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for other upcoming Lionsgate releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. The Digital HD code is not MoviesAnywhere compatible.
The Hitman's Bodyguard bares all of the hallmarks of a very heavily processed modern film. From color grading to added digital grain, the 1080p 2.40:1 transfer, the look and feel of the image depends entirely on the post-production tools employed in any given scene. When the film is allowed to have a natural look, it can appear stunning with vibrant primary colors, terrific detail levels, and deep inky blacks. When the image is punished with processing where purples, greens, and oranges are pushed up, the grain added to give the image a sense of grit becomes a bit noisy, details fluctuate, and the image can appear a bit flat as black levels are pushed into gray. That isn't to say this image transfer is a complete travesty - it's just processed to invoke a certain look and feel. I wouldn't mind this if it was consistently applied but at times it feels slapdash. Some scenes actors can appear downright orange or if an actor has a darker complexion, Elodie Yung, for example, can appear green. Daylight scenes escape these issues and look splendid. While this grading and processing are clearly by intent, it can appear garish at times and in some scenes a bit distracting.
Where there is little argument about quality is the superb Dolby Atmos mix The Hitman's Bodyguard gets to enjoy. There is constant surround activity and the mix makes great use of the atmospherics - especially whenever there is an approaching helicopter. It's some wild stuff. Gunfire and explosions erupt out of the speakers and can punch up any action sequence. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout - which is extra important when the quips start flying. The bulk of the comedy and the best moments of the film are when Reynolds and Jackson are bickering. Even in quieter office scenes or when our leads are walking through a field, there is a great sense of atmosphere and space while subtle sound effects keep various channels alive. All In all, this is a pretty terrific audio mix and plays to the film's strengths.
The Hitman's Bodyguard comes packed with a few decent bonus features. Sadly, they're not very long and more or less cover the EPK basics. But there is still some decent material here, and the Patrick Hughes commentary track is a good listen.
Audio Commentary Featuring director Patrick Hughes.
Outtakes (HD 5:23) There are actually a few good bits here that get a laugh.
Deleted Scenes (HD 5:01) Not a lot of new or great material here, nothing at least that would dramatically alter the film.
Extended Scenes (HD 3:21) Like the deleted scenes, not enough to alter a scene beyond additional padding.
Alternate Scenes (HD 3:24)
The Hitman's Bodyguard: A Love Story (HD 8:56)
Hitman vs. Bodyguard (HD 4:23)
Dangerous Women (HD 8:22)
Big Action In A Big World (HD 7:53)
How one takes to The Hitman's Bodyguard is going to depend entirely on how one likes their comedy served up to them. If a clever script surrounding well-defined characters with witty banter is your thing, stick to Midnight Run. If you don't mind your comedy improved with a fair share of gross-out dialogue, The Hitman's Bodyguard has a few great laughs in it. Pacing and structure are the biggest problems of the film as it increasingly takes time away from Reynolds and Jackson and how well they work together. Lionsgate brings this film to Blu-ray in fine order with a solid transfer and a hell of a great audio mix. Bonus features are a bit slim but still worth digging into. At the end of the day, I didn't love the film, but I was entertained. If that's all you're looking for, you should get your money's worth. Recommended.