It took a little while for Ryan Reynolds to find his true cinematic niche—one that makes good use of his rare combination of leading-man looks, self-deprecating amiability, and smartly sardonic sense of humor. He was sheer perfection in 2016’s raunchy, R-rated blockbuster, Deadpool. Reynolds is at his best when he has a strong co-star to play off of as a foil, and he has that in Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek, his co-stars in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, Yes, it’s an awkward title for this sequel to 2017’s action/comedy, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. But if you liked that movie (I thought it was a blast), chances are you’ll enjoy this latest flawed-but-fun outing.
(Spoilers for first film below. Only mild spoilers for new film; no major reveals.)
In the first film, Reynolds’ ambitious, tightly controlled, triple-A rated “executive protection agent,” Michael Bryce, finds his professional life in shambles after one of this clients is assassinated on his watch. Two years later, his ex-girlfriend (an Interpol agent) reluctantly hires him to protect hitman Darius Kinkaid (Jackson). Darius is a key witness in the trial of the ruthless dictator of Belarus (Gary Oldman), agreeing to testify in exchange for the release of his con-artist wide, Sonia (Hayek) from prison. Michael has to get Darius from London to the International Criminal Court while being pursued by all the crack assassins and firepower the Belarus dictator can muster. Do they ultimately succeed and save the day against nigh-impossible odds? Do you really need to ask?
The Hitman’s Bodyguard grossed $176.6 million globally—not a bad showing—but it received decidedly mixed reviews. Although almost everyone praised the onscreen comic chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson, much of the criticism targeted the fairly generic, cliche-ridden script. Audiences were more forgiving. One person’s tired cliche is another’s time-honored trope, after all, and raunchy, entertaining, R-rated comedy/action flicks are in short supply these days.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard brings us more of the same. We find Michael still in bodyguard exile, despite his successful mission with Kinkaid. Even his therapist can’t wait to get rid of him, suggesting he take a sabbatical to Capri. He just wants to lounge poolside and read The Secret in peace, but fate (in the form of Sonia) intervenes. Per the official premise:
The world’s most lethal odd couple—bodyguard Michael Bryce and hitman Darius Kincaid—are back on another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’s even more volatile wife, the infamous international con artist Sonia Kincaid. As Bryce is driven over the edge by his two most dangerous protectees, the trio get in over their heads in a global plot and soon find that they are all that stand between Europe and a vengeful and powerful madman (Antonio Banderas). Joining in the fun and deadly mayhem is Morgan Freeman as…well, you’ll have to see.
The screwball/slapstick comedy aspects are more pronounced this time around, as is the cheese factor. Once again, it’s the on-screen chemistry between the three leads that makes the movie work. Reynolds and Jackson settle smoothly into their usual bickering interplay, and having Michael insist upon not carrying a gun—relying on pepper spray and his trusty Swiss Army knife (“they never see it coming”) because his therapist advised against it—makes for a solid running gag. Hayek once again shows a real gift for physical comedy, as well as impressively long, profane rants in Spanish (often left untranslated).
Among the supporting cast, Tom Hopper—best known as Luther in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy—steals his scenes as Magnusson, a superstar bodyguard who is Michael’s arch-rival. Banderas gleefully camps it up as villainous Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Papadopoulos, and Richard E. Grant is back for a brief cameo as the flamboyant, drug-addicted corporate executive Mr. Seifert. (It’s always nice to see Frank Grillo, but he is wasted as Interpol agent Bobby O’Neill.)
You could level many of the same criticisms against The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard as its predecessor; many reviewers already have. Is it ridiculously over the top at times? Sure, although director Patrick Hughes leans into the sillier aspects with tongue firmly in cheek. Does it follow a familiar action/buddy comedy formula? Yes, complete with car chases, explosions, a spot of torture, and double-crossing twists. The first act is kind of clumsy—although the film finds its footing by the second—and it’s not that difficult to predict how (almost) everything plays out. None of that matters, because ultimately the movie is just a fun, wild ride with three terrific, hugely charismatic leads carrying it through any rough spots.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is now playing in theaters. We strongly recommend only returning to theaters after being fully vaccinated.