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A by-the-book sequel to a movie that was already striking in its unoriginality, Patrick Hughes’ The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard offers many explosions, chase sequences and bits of naughty dialogue that would barely register as humor if they weren’t being delivered by some of Hollywood’s most charismatic stars.
The one smart thing the film does is promote Salma Hayek, as the eponymous spouse of Samuel L. Jackson’s hitman, from the small but scene-stealing role she played in the first film. Perhaps admitting that the original’s pairing of Jackson with Ryan Reynolds (the bodyguard) resulted in something less than classic buddy-pic chemistry, Hughes and company make Hayek’s foul-mouthed brawler an equal partner. While the teamup still fails to become more than the sum of its parts, at least we can appreciate Hayek’s enthusiasm for the over-the-top role.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard
Though he seemed bound for a comeback when the last pic ended, Reynolds’ Michael Bryce is still washed up as an elite bodyguard, his prestigious triple-A rating lost after he let a zillionaire client get killed. (As before, it’s never clear whether the script wants us to buy into the silly notion of a bodyguard-vetting entity or just laugh it off; but as with several other dubious jokes, they repeat the reference often enough that one assumes they think it’s a side-splitter.)
Bryce struggles through this career crisis in therapy sessions with a shrink who’s sick of him. Brushing him off at last, she declares he has “graduated therapy” and must take a sabbatical: exotic vacation, no bodyguarding, absolutely no guns. Bryce embraces the idea, only to have his lounge time on the island of Capri interrupted by a massive firefight instigated by Hayek’s Sonia Kincaid. Turns out the Mafia has kidnapped her husband Darius, and Bryce is the only one they trust to help rescue him.
A big quest, you might think. But given how quickly they free Darius, it hardly even counts as an excuse to get the crew back together. The film cares more about the nefarious schemes of a third-rate Bond villain played by Antonio Banderas: Aristotle Papadopolous is a tycoon who, indignant at the European Union’s treatment of his homeland, plots to destroy all the EU’s infrastructure and return Greece to its place at the center of civilization.
Bryce and the Kincaids soon get roped into attempts to foil Papadopolous, working with an American Interpol agent (Frank Grillo) and a character (Morgan Freeman) whose identity the filmmakers would probably like to remain a surprise. There’s some business with a suitcase full of money, a bomb locked to Sonia’s wrist and attempts to weasel their way into Papadopolous’ inner circle. (Should we mention that Sonia is now identified as a globally notorious con artist, despite the fact that the last film said she was a cocktail waitress, rescued by Darius from a dive bar in Mexico? Maybe a deleted scene connects those dots.)
All the boilerplate spy stuff provides for the requisite action sequences, on which no expense has been spared. But the film’s humor, such as it is, is rarely amplified by all this mayhem. Thinking of places where laughs come not from dialogue or attitude but action, what come to mind are a few pieces of intimate physical comedy that would have worked as well (better, in fact) in a film with no pyrotechnics budget at all.
Reynolds, for instance, makes the most of Bryce’s discomfort with his companions’ sexual appetites: Sonia has decided she can’t wait to start a family, and hops on Darius at every opportunity. Banderas earns some snickers by playing it straight while wearing the outré wardrobe of a would-be supervillain. Hayek and Jackson, for their parts, can make delivering lines of dialogue a physical event. And it’s a good thing Hayek’s animated outbursts command our attention, since Hughes is so busy trying to direct our eyes toward her cleavage.
Screenwriters Tom O’Connor, Phillip Murphy and Brandon Murphy display no interest in how credible characters — even cartoonishly exaggerated comic ones — might really behave under circumstances like these, which wouldn’t be so bad if the movie were funnier. But its occasional laughs drown in a sea of action-comedy tropes that have been stale for decades. These actors deserve much better, and so do their fans.
Production companies: Millennium Media, Nu Boyana Film Studios
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman
Director: Patrick Hughes
Screenwriters: Tom O’Connor, Phillip Murphy, Brandon Murphy
Producers: Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner
Director of photography: Terry Stacey
Production designer: Russell De Rozario
Costume designer: Stephanie Collie
Editors: Jack Hitchings, Michael Duthie
Composer: Atli Örvarsson
Casting director: Elaine Grainger
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