Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson, Salma Hayek – Deadline
The repeated comic references in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard to the 1987 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell comedy Overboard provide an unintended comparison to this eager-to-please sequel that essentially throws all credibility overboard in just hoping to make some attempts at humor stick. Four times I actually laughed out loud in this summer movie confection, so be thankful for small favors.
At a recent NATO-sponsored preview of the upcoming films for Hollywood’s warm-weather high season, I was stunned at the overload of horror and superhero tentpole flicks and the lack of even one traditional comedy among the more than 60-film presentation from 13 studios and distributors. Has Hollywood forgotten that we need a laugh? The closest they came were two Ryan Reynolds vehicles that heavily mix frenetic action with the jokes. After 15 months of this pandemic, we must laugh again, folks, so I am giving the first Reynolds release of the summer a hall pass and I will take what I can get.
This clearly is a comedy the studio believes had to be protected with a near-nonstop barrage of violent shootouts, chases, explosions and more to make sure we pay attention for 98 minutes or so. Bring earplugs. It also got a greenlight because the first teaming of Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard came close to $200 million worldwide for what initially was perceived to be a late-August throwaway. Their comic chemistry saved the day and guaranteed a sequel, this time moving up supporting scene stealer Salma Hayek into full-on co-star status as this one is definitely now a three-fer. I never thought I would say this, but her completely bananas “anything goes,” take-no-prisoners approach actually works here. Fortunately, director Patrick Hughes, who also helmed the original, does not believe in reining her antics in. He also apparently is fond of boob jokes and sexual gags that have Jackson and Hayek, a married hitman and conwoman, unable to keep their hands off each other. Hayek also has a fair amount of screen time lamenting their inability to get pregnant.
Plot-wise, it is four years after the events of the first movie, and Reynolds’ Michael Bryce is screwed up because he lost his bodyguard license after botching an assignment to protect a billionaire. He spends time in therapy with a doctor who can’t wait to get rid of him and thus prescribes a getaway vacation. So with his copy of “The Secret” in hand, he is off to Capri, the first of several tempting Italian locations featured (although the credits state the UK, Croatia, and Bulgaria also were employed during filming), where a violent incident comes to a boil when Sonia Kincaid (Hayek) runs rampant on the beach and tells Michael that her husband Darius (Jackson) has been kidnapped by the mafia and only wants Michael to come rescue him. Apparently, she gets it wrong as he said to send in anyone but Michael.
Nevertheless, Darius quickly is freed and it serves as the setup to reteam this dynamic duo. This time they must find a way to infiltrate the world of Greek tycoon Aristotle Papadopolous (the very un-Greek Antonio Banderas), who is out to destroy the infrastructure of the EU in order to return his beloved Greece to the center of power. Interpol, in the form of an agent played by Frank Grillo, also gets involved as the action heats up to extreme levels but never once seems believable, which might be the point.
Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek are simply having a blast, even if overwhelmed by all the loud and constant pyrotechnics and pointless action sequences. Banderas is as over-the-top as the rest of them but is stuck playing a Bondian villain without much teeth. The whole thing in this regard seems overly convoluted. Morgan Freeman also turns up (but of course) and seems to have some sort of connection with everyone. I have to say the scene where our trio goes to his home is the best in the movie, maybe because it is also the quietest and most offbeat. It shows that if you give the humor a chance to breathe a little instead of overcooking everything, this group can be very funny. I only wish Hughes had the smarts to slow things down more often, but I imagine this is a film essentially made by committee, so you get what you get.
Reynolds doesn’t have the outrageous rat-a-tat-tat one-liners of a Deadpool, but he always is fun to have around, an actor who knows how to play a comic line as well as anyone. Jackson has done this thing 100 times and has it down pat, but he and Hayek oddly seem right together. As escapist summertime fodder, and a reason to chomp down some popcorn, you could do a lot worse. I only wish it was a lot better. Nevertheless, this dynamic trio gives it their all, are guaranteed a nice payday and accordingly fire on all cylinders. For those who want to submit to this brand of mayhem, our stars make it more fun than it should be.
Shout-out to Lionsgate for putting this exclusively in theatres on June 16. As an excuse to help wake up the multiplex, we welcome anything — just get us out of the house. The script is by Brandon and Philip Murphy. Producers of the Millennium Media production are Matt O’Toole, Yariv Lerner and Les Weldon. Check out my video review with scenes from the film at the link above.
Do you plan to see Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard? Let us know what you think.