A couple weeks ago, while reviewing the sub-B, Halle Berry–starring throwaway Kidnap, I marveled almost admiringly at the fact that anyone even made movies like this anymore. This week I had a similar feeling, though with a less positive aftertaste, for the late-summer dreck The Hitman’s Bodyguard, so I guess this is the world’s way of telling me that, yes, they do make movies like this anymore. This does not mean that we need to concern ourselves with them if we don’t want to: Unlike other “bad” movies of the summer of 2017, these aren’t symptoms of market bloat like Transformers: The Last Knight or corporate fever dreams like The Emoji Movie. These movies are the cinematic equivalent of metal washers or xanthan gum: Someone has to make them, they keep people employed, and you can go your whole life without seeing or thinking about them and get through just fine.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard opens with what I can only describe as an ad for masculinity, some third-rate–James Bond, rich-spy fantasy complete with an attractive sleeping woman in the California King bed. Even as a heterosexual woman with no desire to own a gun, let alone a foam-molded wall of them, I’m pretty susceptible to this kind of ultrabasic glamour. But throughout this entire “yeahhhh who’s ready for a real GUY’s movie” opening, all I could wonder was if director Patrick Hughes had seen any movies since the 2012 McG film This Means War (a better and more interesting movie than The Hitman’s Bodyguard, incidentally.)
The gun-wall-having cool guy in question is Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds,) a “triple-A rated” bodyguard who makes big bucks protecting the rich and corrupt from assassination attempts. His success is in his meticulousness: His mantra is “Boring Is Better,” which is the kind of thing uptight assholes say at the beginning of movies like this. He loses it all, however, when a powerful Japanese polygamist (because that’s certainly a type) he’s been charged with gets hit by a sniper’s bullet. Two years later, he’s doing low-rent security work out of a Ford station wagon when he’s called in by his ex at Interpol for a job only he can handle: protecting notorious assassin and the former bane of his existence Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), the kind of name that only could have been dreamed up by a man who just finished his second screenplay. Kincaid is needed at the Hague to give his testimony at the trial of a genocidal dictator (wow, this got dark), and the world can’t afford to have him taken out first.
Well, you’re never going to guess, but these two guys, Bryce and Kincaid? They just do not see eye to eye! As they make their way on their wackadoo Eurotrip (yes, they do get picked up by a van full of nuns at one point), Kincaid’s devil-may-care attitude and appetite for violence makes boy scout Bryce just about blow his little top. But Kincaid may also be able to teach him a thing or two about living in the moment, and acting from the heart. Maybe, if he takes Kincaid’s advice, he’ll even be able to get the Interpol lady back into his bed, smiling and asleep once again.
The whole film feels slightly grubby and low-res, like it’s been languishing in private mode on the filmmakers’ pre-HD YouTube page since 2008. There is also a weird digital haze that covers many of the exterior shots, as if to cover up the stitching of composite shots set “on location” in Amsterdam, or perhaps to protect the vanity of the two leading men. The effect was something like movie Klonopin; minutes after leaving the theater, I was hard pressed to remember a single image from the film, despite taking copious notes. Only a flashback of Darius meeting his wife (Salma Hayek, who’s giving so much gusto to the kind of part I’m sure she’s dead bored of playing) in a Mexican bar, and her beating up a room of leches to the tune of Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” remained. It was cute. I smiled, and thought, “In a week, it will be like none of this ever happened.”