Review: The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: The world’s top bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) is blackmailed into protecting his worst enemy, the world’s greatest assassin (Samuel L. Jackson), when the latter comes forward with evidence that could end a brutal dictator’s (Gary Oldman) reign of terror.

REVIEW: Once upon a time, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD would have been a modest programmer, in-line with many of the genre-focused movies produced by Millennium Films, but shortly after star Ryan Reynolds signed on the dotted line, DEADPOOL became a massive worldwide hit. That movie’s impact can be felt here, with this having been inflated to A-status, giving Reynolds his first post-DEADPOOL actioner, with everything thrown-in but the kitchen sink to guarantee its success.

All that said, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD would have fared better if it had been scaled down, as the influence of DEADPOOL is too keenly felt at times, with director Patrick Hughes (THE EXPENDABLES 3) not able to juggle the comedy and carnage as well as Tim Miller. The result is a widely schizophrenic actioner. This vibe is evident within the first five minutes, where, in a sitcom-y, straight-ahead comedy sequence, we follow Reynolds on a typical assignment (complete with a lighthearted comic score by Atli Örvarsson), only to be immediately followed by a brutal sequence where Gary Oldman murders a mother and her child. One second it’s TRUE MEMOIRS OF AN INTERNATIONAL ASSASIN, the next it’s an Oliver Stone movie.

All this adds up to a really uneven actioner, although the genuine chemistry between the two stars ultimately makes it worth watching. By now, Reynolds can play this role in his sleep, but he’s given a good foil in Samuel L. Jackson, who steals the show. In fact, the emphasis is really placed on Jackson throughout, which works as he’s got the arc, with him seemingly only testifying to free his wife (Salma Hayek) from prison, although in the end he has his own motivations for wanting to get Oldman. He makes for a dynamic action hero, reminiscent a bit of Charles Bronson in his later years, with him believably tough, but also having a way with a good line. A particular favorite of mine is when he tells an Interpol agent (Elodie Yung) that rather than wasting manpower protecting him, they should just give him a car and a couple of guns and meet him at the tribunal where Oldman’s being tried in a few days. It’s hard not to see his point.

Reynolds seems happy to take a backseat to Jackson, and their chemistry works, even though they seemingly become best friends out of nowhere. One minute they’re literally ready to murder each other, the next they’re totally bro’ing out and bonding over their rising body count. It’s an old-fashioned buddy-movie in this regard, and to Hughes’s credit, it’s loaded with carnage and never boring. Yet, many of the action sequences lack impact, as there’s almost too much going on. A long motorcycle chase falls flat because it’s clear that Reynolds is never on the bike at all, with the whole sequence done by a stuntman wearing a helmet with the visor down. In an EPK playing at some theaters, Reynolds jokes that Tom Cruise likely would have done the whole thing himself. You bet your ass Ryan, but then again, there’s only one Tom Cruise.

Reynolds does have a few good scraps thoughout, including one where he goes mano-a-mano with Oldman’s main henchman. Oldman himself is as intense as ever, and a dialogue scene between him and Jackson crackles with tension, with the two upping each other’s game. It might have been better had the comedy been deemphasized, and many bits feel tacked-on. This is especially true of the romantic flashbacks ironically scored by eighties pop songs, which seems like a full-on lift from DEADPOOL.

While not an ace action movie, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD does have its moments, and the stars more or less make it work consistently. It’s not especially memorable, but it’s a good-enough late summer programmer, and worth seeing for the leads alone.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.