Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds proved an odd-couple hit in the breezy, if bloody 2017 action-comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an entertaining throwback buddy flick. As unflappable assassin Darius Kincaid and way more flappable security agent Michael Bryce, the duo traded insults with each other, and limitless rounds of ammo with international thugs, teaming up to put away Gary Oldman’s crackpot Belarusian despot.
In addition to Reynolds and Jackson’s charmed rapport, the film, directed by Patrick Hughes, gained a lot from the simpatico give-no-fucks attitude shared by hitman Darius and his equally badass wife, Sonia, played by Salma Hayek. The whole gang, led by director Hughes, return for the globetrotting sequel The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (}}), which stretches the lead trio’s ample charms from Athens to Capri to Zagreb and beyond, yanked along by wisecracks, chases, and gunplay.
Sonia, who spent most of the first movie incarcerated, is at liberty here, but still not free, now that her hubby’s the one being held captive. Luckily, she knows just where in Italy to find disgraced bodyguard Bryce, to enlist his help rescuing her “unkillable cucaracha” Darius. A whole plethora of other coincidences pile up to keep the characters bouncing along the plot’s formulaic trajectory of double and triple crosses. And everyone’s got history.
Darius and Bryce keep discovering past incidences of crossed paths in their opposing professions. Their mutual backstory, evolving on the fly, can add a clever touch to the otherwise hit-or-miss humor, but the fact that every shady operator they encounter has some backstory with the hitman, the bodyguard, or his wife becomes more laughable than clever. Former mentors, relatives, or rivals are revealed behind every curtain, from the film’s arch-villain, the coolly maniacal Greek tycoon Aristotle Papadopolous (an okay Antonio Banderas), to a mystery fixer portrayed in a brief but potent turn by Morgan Freeman.
The preponderance of happenstance undercuts any sense of suspense, just as the cartoon physics diminish the action stakes. For the second time, Bryce goes careening head-first through a car windshield onto the street and keeps on quipping. Bad guys get shot to shreds, but our guys just bleed and snark off the pain. To maintain tension under such pliable circumstances, Hughes and crew would need to conceive more intricate or inventive set-pieces than the monotonous gun battles and boat chases that shuffle Bryce and the Kincaids towards the crowded climax.
Also chasing the trio around the Mediterranean are Interpol agents led by Boston transplant Bobby O’Neill (Frank Grillo), who genuinely seems unnecessary to this enterprise. The script is plenty busy playfully working through Bryce’s psychological and self-esteem issues, and Sonia’s keen desire to have a baby. Adding more weight to a listing ship, the Interpol plot ensures that no action scene plays out without half a dozen extra, nameless targets for gunfire.
Blithely ignoring the extensive collateral damage of their search-and-rescue exploits, the Interpol agents, and our star team, skip across bits of backstory like stones in a stream of consciousness, finally landing on an ending that wraps up the controlled chaos in one weird, unlikely little bow. Where these developments next lead Bryce, Darius, and Sonia, we might not care to know.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is rated R, and is now playing in theaters. Visit www.fandango.com.
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