The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)


hitmans wifeThe Hitman’s Bodyguard was one of my guilty favourites a few years back (a rare digital rental that got me buying it on 4K disc a few months later when it dropped in price). It was one of those films where you just know you’re being had, that its not a great film, but there was something in the cast, the chemistry between them, that just clicked for me. Really, how could you go wrong with a cheesy action flick with Ryan Reynolds cracking jokes and Samuel Jackson blasting expletives? They even had Gary Oldman chewing up the scenery as an Eastern European megalomaniac villain (if there’s such a thing as an Eastern European megalomaniac hero, let me know).

The law of diminishing returns proves inevitable with the sequel, but its the cast which again largely saves the day. I get such a kick out of these characters, and the film really benefits from Salma Hayek having a much larger role, not so much chewing the scenery but rather simply demolishing it. To be clear, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is not a very good film (its arguably awful trash), and it is clearly inferior to the first, but I still got that guilty kick out of it.

I couldn’t even tell you what its about- some vague plot about a Greek billionaire (Antonio Banderas) seeking revenge on the European Union by infecting it with some war-grade virus in order to destroy European Civilization. Somehow our three crazy misfits get caught up in it, there’s something about a briefcase, Frank Grillo wants to get back to Boston, mostly its a lot of loud swearing and even louder action: there’s violent deaths, and lots of them. I don’t know what the body count is of the other night’s Kate and this one, but I perhaps need to chill with some sedate contemplative romantic comedy now these two have assaulted my senses.

The one thing that particularly irritated me this time around, was the editing. This thing is edited down to within an inch of its life, so much so that its almost rendered impossible to make sense of (hence my bemusement regards the plot). Its possibly because they had little confidence with the script carrying the film, which is a pity because it renders the pacing so relentless it almost breaks the film entirely. Transitions are perfunctory at best as we leap from one location (and another action sequence) to the next, characters noisily come and go, its hard to make sense of it all. Consequently the film loses something that the original had- there’s fewer character beats (and hell, the original was never Shakespeare), as if the film-makers have decided we don’t want characters, we just wants stunts and explosions and Ryan Reynolds thrown all over the place. Its much like a cartoon.

Its the cast that saves it. Hayek in particular is in great form, a foul-mouthed tramp with a heart whose, er, physicality becomes a visual gag all the way through. Samuel Jackson of course is just doing Samuel Jackson; he’s one of those actors whose presence alone can light up a scene even on autopilot. I suppose the same is true of Morgan Freeman, but he’s largely wasted here, one of the few actors not given free rein to let loose (although his casting gives the film one of its better jokes, perhaps Harrison Ford would have been a better choice). Likewise Frank Grillo isn’t allowed to break into action- seems a wasted opportunity burying him in what is a minor role when his physical prowess could have been better utilised; maybe he’s being set-up for a larger role in a possible sequel. Antonio Banderas has an unlikely crack at playing a Bond villain- he’s perhaps too charming, and not as nasty and cold as he needs to be: some guys just make better heroes than they do villains. 

There’s a fantastic drinking-game with this film; have a drink whenever Hayek breaks into a foul-mouthed tirade. Pretty sure I’ll never manage it through to the end of the movie, but I might have fun giving it a try. Maybe the plot will make better sense in spite of the toxic inebriation, some films just work that way.

4 thoughts on “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

  1. Tom

    Glad to hear you had a better time with it than I. What worked for you is actually what really wore me down, and that was Salma Hayek operating at a freaking 11 out of 10 here. I did feel that we did get another layer of her character later on, making her more than just the eye candy and swear-machine that she was earlier, and that helped a little. But overall, man this was a rough ride. I like your comment about it being very much like a cartoon, because really that does explain the sheer absurdity of their being caught up in this plot and the general high-octane energy. The movie goes for OTT and by jolly does it succeed.

    1. Yeah it was one of those films in which you either went with it or baulked at the sheer madness of it. I suppose what got me to go along with it was my investment in the characters/premise from the first film. As a standalone, this film is quite appalling, its one of those sequels that entirely leans on the original rather than (as, say BR2049 did) goes off and expands on its own terms.

      The one positive thing about this film is, as you say, it is what it is, and ramps it up to ten. I suppose one has to admire the bravura or cheek of it. Or run for the hills in horror.

      1. Tom

        I was here certainly for the characters. I really enjoyed the original. In my opinion Hayek went way OTT. Or perhaps the director kept telling her to go big, and she went b-i-i-i-i-i-g. Not to mention other parts of her as well going big. The one thing that has really entertained me and made me respect her actually is how proud she on the press circuit about her post-menopause breast growth. She’s totally open about it, flaunting it. Good for you, woman. (I mean that genuinely, this is not me attempting to be crass or disingenuous.)

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