‘Blu-ray or Bust’
THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD (2017, R, 118 minutes, BODYGUARD PRODUCTIONS/20TH CENTURY FOX)
Almost thirty years ago, Martin Brest redefined the road trip genre with a little movie about a bounty hunter trying to deliver a mob accountant by a certain day and time while being pursued by the mob and the FBI. The tale was an action/comedy/love story—a bromance defined by violence, lots of swearing, and a menacing bad guy looking to kill the accountant.
MIDNIGHT RUN starred none other than Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin (not to mention the late Dennis Farina, an angry Yaphet Kotto, and a bumbling John Ashton—all three of whom stole every single scene they were in), and the chemistry created between these two polar opposites made for an instant classic. Now, since 1988, there have been several attempts to recreate that kind of frenetic comedic energy, and not many have come close to succeeding on the same level that Brest and company did. Writer George Gallo came close with 1995’s BAD BOYS, but even he seemed to know that there would be no way to capitalize on RUN’s success without making an exact copy of the original and rebranding it.
Fast-forward to 2017, and screenwriter Tom O’Connor gets pretty darn close. Directed by Patrick Hughes (THE EXPENDABLES III), HITMAN concerns the efforts of a bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds, basically playing his snarky self) trying to transport a hitman (Samuel L. Jackson, trying to drop as many mother-effers as humanly possible) to a foreign court while being pursued by Russian baddies and INTERPOL. Sound familiar yet? Same basic concept as RUN, same formula—hell, without giving away any spoilers, almost the same sort of resolution!
But what makes this film standout from all the previous attempts to recreate what Brest and DeNiro and Grodin so perfectly captured is the fact that these characters are plenty safe in the capable hands of Reynolds and Jackson. Also, there is one outstanding performance within the supporting cast: Salma Hayek as the hitman’s estranged wife. If anyone comes close to out-cursing Jackson, it is this yoga-practicing bundle of anger and spite. She continually surprises (see: SAUSAGE PARTY) (or don’t), and here, even from behind bars, she is a force to be reckoned with. Everyone here seems to be having fun—enough to keep the viewer in on the joke. This is an action-comedy, not something vying for an Oscar vote or a special place on your bookshelf. It is entertainment, pure and simple.
So, yes, there are a few issues. Aside from plot holes, guns that never have to be reloaded and bullets that never hit, there is also Gary Oldman doing his usual bad guy routine. And cinematographer Jules O’Laughlin (KRAMPUS) does have a few moments that shine (the first “car chase”, which is more of a car/boat/motorcycle chase, is a violent vehicular square dance that is made nearly believable by the switching angles and close proximity shots that pull you right into the action). But many of the other shots seem standard fare—there isn’t a whole lot new here by way of camera work, but O’Laughlin does what he can, and it seldom distracts from what is going on onscreen.
HITMAN is worth your time and attention, if not as a mostly rollicking and fun two hours, then at least for the nostalgia of DeNiro and Grodin. While this isn’t the same, it comes close enough to deserve a nod of thanks for keeping the genre alive a bit longer. And you also get to hear Samuel L sing (be sure to listen to the full version during the credits). We don’t get too many opportunities to hear him singing his mother-effers now, do we?
Film Grade: B+
Special Features: A (your usual docs, plus a nifty little piece on the butt-kicking women in the film)
Blu-ray Necessary: Most definitely (explosions, 563,000 gunshots, and a decent soundtrack)