To some extent, although perhaps not a very large one, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” was grounded in reality. In my review of it, I noted that there was a moral question to the film that was intriguing – is it better to be a bodyguard for villains or an assassin paid to kill them. The new sequel, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” has no such discussions. It is not a movie remotely encumbered by the notion of reality. It is not merely over the top, it is over the top in a way which winds up with it landing on its face more often than not.
Returning for this outing are director Patrick Hughes as well as stars Ryan Reynolds as the bodyguard, Michael Bryce; Samuel L. Jackson as the hitman, Darius Kincaid; and Salma Hayek as the hitman’s wife, Sonia Kincaid. Missing is Elodie Yung who played an Interpol police officer and the former girlfriend of Michael, Amelia Roussel, in the original. There is a joke made about how Michael is single here in the sequel, but there’s no real reference to the fact that at the end of the last movie it seems like he’s going to get back together with Amelia (that tale was a big emotional arc for the film). Also missing, by and large, is the fun of the last movie.
As I further noted in the review of the first film, while there may have been a discussion about right and wrong, it wasn’t particularly interested in said discussion. It was interested in Reynolds tossing off sarcastic jokes and Jackson laughing and cursing. That’s what happens here as well. Hayek, who was mostly separated from the two men in the first movie and spent her time as Sonia yelling at people while a prisoner in jail, does the same yelling here, but outside of jail. It’s rather less amusing because her yelling at guards is a more interesting power dynamic. It also works better in the smaller doses her storyline afforded in the previous entry.
Sonia is, allegedly, a con artist, but she runs at best a half a con in the movie, and doesn’t even do it that well. Said con would require a British accent which, the movie wonderfully acknowledges, she doesn’t do well (that isn’t to say that she couldn’t do one if she was really trying, just that it’s a bad one here).
The next missing piece from the original is the simple setup – Michael had to get Darius from England to The Hague for a trial. That was it. It was a buddy cop road movie where the guys were neither buddies nor cops. This time, Michael, Darius, and Sonia are… well, that’s hard to say. They are kind of working with Interpol and kind of working against Interpol as they attempt to get the thingamajig that will stop the bad guy, Aristotle (Antonio Banderas), from being able to drill into a box that will allow him to upload a virus that will set electronic stuff (maybe only internet connected electronic stuff?) on fire all over Europe.
No small part of the movie is Michael suffering from a crisis brought on by his losing his bodyguard license. This is related to events at the start of the previous movie and consequently would mean that he didn’t have a license at all during that entry. Although he is horribly upset about losing his career as an upper echelon bodyguard in the original, there is no crisis about his license. It is an awkward retcon used in the sequel in order to provide him with a character arc in lieu of the presence of Amelia.
And Darius? He just laughs and kills people and tries to hide stuff from his wife. He has little happening this time out.
All of this silliness would be fine if the movie were funny, but it isn’t. The screenplay from Tom O’Connor and Phillip Murphy & Brandon Murphy even recycles jokes from the first movie. Some of these, assuredly, are meant to be knowing winks to the audience, but they don’t come off that way, instead reading more as knowing shrugs. None of the action sequences are particularly memorable either.
That said, the whole thing is not without merit. There is some amusing banter between the three leads, all of whom try to keep the movie afloat. Then, there’s a relatively good setup at one point where Sonia has a bracelet on her wrist that is loaded with explosives that will detonate if she gets too far away from a briefcase. Naturally though, there is very little payoff for the ploy, with some moments where the setup is nearly forgotten about.
Frank Grillo puts in an appearance as a sort of rogue Interpol officer who helps push things in one direction or another, but it’s unclear that the character is remotely needed. He even disappears for a good chunk of the movie, causing the audience to wonder whether his plot thread is dropped entirely.
Even a brief appearance by Morgan Freeman doesn’t help things. It just kind of happens in part as a joke that doesn’t have much of a place to go.
And now that I’ve reread what I’ve written and it sounds like I’m telling you that “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is the worst. It isn’t, there are moments one wonders if it’s about to turn into something great. As an example, Banderas is the sort of actor who could do the precise sort of beautifully over-the-top villain thing the movie demands in order to match its heroes. Sadly, again, this doesn’t occur. The movie just doesn’t rise to that level. It prefers to kind of aimlessly coast along. Whereas the first movie in the series had some flashes of brilliance but left too much unexplored, this one eschews “flashes of” for “feints towards.”
photo credit: Lionsgate