There was a time when the buddy movie formula ruled the Hollywood cinematic universe. We loved the brashness of such films as Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours. But then the formula fizzled out and filmmakers moved to other things. To cite an obvious example, The Nice Guys (2016) starring such acting heavyweights as Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling was smartly set in the '70s but despite its okay plot, and superb acting by both Crowe and Gosling, wasn't a big box-office hit.
The Hit-man's Bodyguard looked like a great idea on paper – bring together Ryan Reynolds, fresh off the boat from his profanity-ridden Deadpool and Samuel L Jackson, who is known for his on-screen cussing, and wait for the fireworks to start as the duo at first go all out to murder each other and then develop a mutual respect that borders on friendship. And, for most part, director Patrick Hughes, of The Expendables 3 fame, gets it right. The best scenes in the film are when Reynolds and Jackson are pissing each other off. Reynolds doesn't roll off expletives like he does in Deadpool but Jackson does go over the top. Reynolds smartly plays the straight guy to Jackson's more gregarious character and it works.
The plot of the film is explained in its title itself. Reynolds is a down-on-his luck private security agent, who is cajoled by his girlfriend Elodie Yung, an Interpol agent, into making sure an ace hit-man, Samuel L Jackson, reaches the international court at Hague alive to testify against an evil dictator of Belarus – which is an actual country, by-the-by . The creepy dictator is played by Gary Oldman who gets to ham to his heart's content. Now, the bodyguard and the assassin have a history – it's revealed that Jackson tried to kill Reynolds some 28 times in the past – so one can see that their relationship isn't going to be easy. In fact, they start of by trying to kill each other and only Jackson's injury prevents him from killing his would-be bodyguard. The rest of film is devoted to the banter between them and how they defuse the tension and reach their goal.
The film's chief flaw is that director Hughes just doesn't get the tone right. Instead of concentrating on making a buddy movie with a smattering of violence, he goes for the overkill, piling up bodies by the dozen at every action set piece. Then, there are a couple of gory scenes as well that jar. Gary Oldman executes the wife and child of a rebel in cold blood and Reynolds is tortured through electric shocks in a graphic manner. The action scenes too don't have a fluid intensity that we have come to expect from Hollywood blockbusters. Then, while we get that Reynolds' motives for helping his ex is to get her back, there are too few scenes between him and Yung to get the chemistry going. Compared to that, the scenes between Jackson and his wife, played by Salma Hayek, are epic. She out-cusses him in a scene set in a jail and we see a nice montage of her fighting off guys in a bar and Jackson mooning over her as she uses the jagged edge of a beer bottle to open up a man's neck
that's love at first sight served with a Gothic twist.
The film would have fallen flat if not for the efforts of Reynolds and Jackson. We can see they are enjoying working with each other and it's their camaraderie plus some crazy-ass dialogue that saves the day. Watch the film if you are a Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson fan. Watch Midnight Run instead if you want to watch a real buddy movie
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