The return of inexplicable sequels is but one part of the general “nature is healing” vibe of the 2021 summer movie season, and the awkwardly titled action comedy Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard fits the bill, unfortunately, quite well. A follow-up to the 2017 film The Hitman’s Bodyguard (even as it loses the word “The” for no good reason), this sequel offers more of the same while being poorly paced and substituting yelling and profanity in place of actual wit or humor. Though it’s still plenty glib and smug, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard doesn’t deliver the goods.
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) remains haunted by the memory of the man he failed to protect from an assassin’s bullet, all the more so because he ended up protecting that assassin, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), in the first film. But with the events of that film in the rearview mirror, Michael is adrift and whiny, leading his frustrated therapist to encourage him to take a sabbatical from bodyguarding. Though Michael tries his damnedest to avoid any tough action, or even the use of guns, he’s almost instantly whisked into a new scenario by Sonia (Salma Hayek), Darius’ wife. There’s a madman (Antonio Banderas) trying to destroy the entirety of Europe so that Greece can avoid getting hit with new financial sanctions by the EU, and if your eyes have glazed over already, that’s okay. The filmmakers have just as little interest in delving into any plot-related reasons for villainy or violence.
Much like its predecessor, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is gleefully R-rated. Jackson’s known for his utility with the f-word, and in this film, he’s matched by Hayek in the sheer amount of profanity throughout. There’s nothing like the good, effective, shockingly funny use of profanity in movies, but unfortunately, this is nothing like the good, effective, shockingly funny use of profanity. Here, swearing is like breathing, or more accurately, it’s used in place of actual jokes. Jackson’s character Darius mocks Michael, Michael mocks Darius, they yell at each other, Sonia shouts a bit too, and so on and so on. Though this movie is mercifully 20 minutes shorter than its predecessor, it’s just as endless. These people would be hell to be stuck with on a long road trip.
Perhaps part of the problem is seeing so many – so many – talented actors slumming for what must have been the prospect of an easy paycheck or a nice time spent in locales like Florence and Rome. Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek are all back, yes, but they’re joined now by the brightly coiffed Banderas, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant, and Morgan Freeman. (Admittedly, Grant is reprising a role as well, but his appearance is so fast and so baffling that you just hope he got paid well for such a nothing part.) Yes, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is notable if for no other reason than Jackson and Freeman, two true acting legends, appear to be sharing the screen for the first time in their respectively lengthy careers.
The cast’s vast over-qualification for this film would be less frustrating if director Patrick Hughes or the three screenwriters gave them good material with which to work. With the heavy amount of snarky one-liners, a few of them land, but those that do often feel like improvised lines that just worked in the moment. (The funniest comes from Reynolds, quipping after Grillo’s Interpol agent fires a gun into the ceiling, “What if someone’s working upstairs?”) But most of the supposedly clever dialogue is nasty, bordering on cartoonishly nihilistic. Having a live-action film function as an outrageous cartoon isn’t a problem – Michael gets run over by a car at high speed, shot at violently, and more, and just keeps on ticking – but it would be nice if the action scenes were shot capably or the humor was at least closer to a 50/50 split of hit or miss.
And it would be nice if such a film didn’t try even for a single scene to go for pathos. This time around, Darius and Sonia are desperate to start a family and frustrated at their lack of success. (There’s some folderol about Michael trying to get back his elite status as a bodyguard, but the script is so dismissive of his attempts that it’s worth being similarly ignorant of it as a subplot.) It’s difficult for so many reasons to care about these characters and their attempt to start a family, not least of which is that Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard wants badly to have its cake and eat it too. You can be flippant all you like, but shift into sincerity for a minute and it falls flat instantly.
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – a title, by the way, that is mostly misleading outside of a single scene where Michael serves as Sonia’s bodyguard – has a few brief moments of joy or wit. But most of those moments rely on the audience’s recognition of the all-too-famous cast (such as being delighted at seeing Banderas and Hayek share the screen once more, even with Banderas playing the bad guy). This film, even more than its surprisingly successful predecessor, is exhausting and obnoxious. A few good lines don’t save a slapdash, snarky mess.
/Film Rating: 3 out of 10
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