“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is the kind of movie where you check your brain at the start – that’s almost a requirement — but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t supply some moments of fun.
That’s almost a given, considering that the movie — which TNT shows Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17 — teams Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, two performers well-known for their bemused and bemusing styles. Who plays which character could go either way, but in this case, it’s Reynolds playing the flawed-security-man bodyguard to Jackson’s professional killer … who knows too much and is ready to talk.
The two of them strive to stay alive as they cross Europe together, just barely ahead of their enemies as they make escapes through London, Amsterdam and other scenic areas via speedboat, motorcycle and various other means.
As it happens, the characters have crossed paths before, on occasions when Jackson was targeting people Reynolds was protecting. The altering of their meaning to each other is an interesting wrinkle, but it’s never explored deeply as if to give each a new and full appreciation of the other – not when the movie can make hay out of their mutual firing of insults as they try to stay alive.
It’s not hard to see where Jackson is going to take this, and that’s a measure of how familiar his persona has become. That’s also not a criticism; the makers of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” clearly knew just who they wanted for that role, and they got him.
The surprise is perhaps a bit more on the part of Reynolds, but only a bit. He’s had plenty of variety in his roles … and while they’re all part and parcel of the same actor, it can be fun to see which persona he’ll draw upon. He plays it pretty straight here, owing not only to his character’s occupation but also to help serve Jackson, who surely is no wallflower.
Overall, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” will put your mind to more use than “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” does, but there are worse ways to spend two hours than in the company of the good-spirited Jackson and Reynolds. And Salma Hayek has some pretty lively scenes as Jackson’s wife, to the extent that a sequel built around her is slated for release later this year.
No one ever will mistake “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” for screen greatness, but thanks to the knowing winks the film and its stars give more than once, it’s OK for what it is.