I have to imagine production of The Hitman’s Bodyguard started with director Patrick Hughes gathering the whole cast together and giving them some kind of speech along the lines of “Look, we all know this script is a piece of garbage but if we pull together we can elevate it way past tolerable” and then there was some big cheer and they ran out to the set like a sports movie. It’s a laughable script that doesn’t hold together under the smallest bit of scrutiny, but the cast absolutely crushes it. It’s the best bad movie I’ve seen all year and I don’t mean that as faint praise. The world is full of people doing average work with average material but seeing fantastic work come from a wretched foundation is something special. This is a diamond found in a coal mine.
The chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is basically driving the whole movie. We’re getting a Deadpool-lite version of Reynolds thick with meta commentary on the events of the movie and sort of action movie in general. This plays well with the standard action-comedy version of Jackson we’ve been seeing since Die Hard with a Vengeance. This interplay drives the whole movie dragging a murky nonsensical plot and a seemingly endless numbers of big pauses for jokes that just aren’t that funny. Everything that’s Reynolds and Jackson bickering is great, every scene that has Selma Hayek in it is good, everything else is pretty bad.
The action in the movie is good enough, but it feels more like a greatest hits compilation than any kind of new composition. The best sequence in the film is one where Jackson is walking through a Dutch square seemingly oblivious to potential attackers while Reynolds stealthily takes them down. It’s a good sequence but it feels an awful lot like a knock-off of the Waterloo Station sequence in The Bourne Supremacy and while it’s 10 years later feels a bit slower. There’s also a reasonably thrilling chase through a canal with Jackson in a boat being chased by bad guys in SUVs while Reynolds on a motorcycle harasses them. It’s a nice idea salad mixing bits from a number of other movies. Maybe greatest hits is too reductive, more like a remix of some old favorites, you ought bop your head a few times but odds are you’ll go back to the original.
Most of the story of The Hitman’s Bodyguard is just low-level stupid. You know, stuff like trial scenes that were written by someone who has only experienced the legal system from their drunk friend describing Law & Order episodes to them. But then toward the end they try to pretend like there’s some big moral quandary between a life spent protecting terrible people versus a life of killing bad people for money. For one, I don’t believe that you can make a great living as a contract killer just sitting around and waiting for bad people to need killing that badly. Also, people who decide to hire assassins to deal with their problems aren’t people who are on the highest of high grounds to start with. It’s not an interesting moral quandary, and it directly detracts from the stuff that’s actually entertaining in the movie. Wikipedia says that when this script was named to The Black List it was a drama— maybe this is an artifact from those days, but it has no place in this movie. (I also can’t imagine this was a better movie as a drama. I’m bored just thinking about it.)
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is good because you get to see Deadpool interact with Nick Fury. They had to file off all the serial numbers, superpowers, and sci-fi gadgets— but that’s what it is. We’ll never get the actual pairing because of all the various rights headaches (and honestly, what would need to be happening in the MCU for it to even happen) but we can get it here stitched on to a wretched story about the trial of a dictator who commands an army of mercenaries while imprisoned at The Hague. Come for the cast, stay for the cast, leave with a smile on your face, pick it on Netflix 18 months from now, never think about it after that.