Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD
Rated R, 99 minutes
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Somewhere in between the time when THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD was released and THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD was conceived, returning director Patrick Hughes and returning screenwriter Tom O’Connor (along with newcomers Philip Murphy and Brandon Murphy) forgot what made the first film work: a lean plot driven by two characters who mix like oil and water. It was a spin on the classic MIDNIGHT RUN dynamic. Their sequel does the expected, recycling gags from the original, as well as bringing back the embattled personalities. Yet the new material is a lackluster effort at reproducing any bits of irreverent magic captured in its predecessor, nonsensically flipping the lead character dynamics and adding befuddling, generic new ones. This is a joyless slog where the audience can see the actors’ interest waning from scene to scene.
Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is going through yet another identity crisis. He’s struggling with life as an unlicensed bodyguard, riddled with PTSD over his traumatic adventure with adversarial hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). On the advice of his therapist, he’s encouraged to leave that world behind, starting with a little rest and relaxation on Capri. However, all hope for a healing sabbatical is quickly dashed when Kincaid’s wily wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), appears at his resort under a hail of bullets and blood, begging Michael for help in rescuing her husband from the mafia. He reluctantly obliges, but remains committed to going gun-free to retain some semblance of normalcy.
What the pair don’t know is that the Mafioso thug who’s kidnapped Darius is an informant, working with Interpol agent Bobby O’Neill (Frank Grillo, who’s sadly saddled with tons of exposition and plows through it at breakneck speed). Europe is being threatened with a hostile takeover by slippery Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Papadopolous (Antonio Banderas), who’s scheming to release a dangerous computer virus into the European data grid to wreak havoc on financial institutions and create general chaos. When they unwittingly kill the informant, the tempestuous trio are blackmailed by O’Neill into helping set up a sting operation so that Aristotle won’t be able to get the tech he needs to locate the data, nor the physical supplies – the diamond-tipped drill – that will allow him access. Hijinks and not much hilarity ensue.
While the protagonist is again continually hamstrung by his charge, now charges, the narrative is about fifty percent more convoluted than its predecessor. It’s also not the least bit fun, nor funny. It takes a long time to get to the heart of the plot and once we’re there, the filmmakers want to diverge from it every chance they get. Act two is endless and stalls out frequently. There are wholly unnecessary developments in Michael’s evolution that exist more to explain a shady figure from his past (played by Morgan Freeman) rather than to enhance the character dynamics between the trio. The convenience of Seifert’s (Richard E. Grant) reappearance drives one of the scenes straight into the ground faster than the drill these characters are seeking. We can see every grossly pronounced, overtly puppeted maneuver the filmmakers make. It bluntly condescends to the audience’s intelligence time and time over.
Characters are done dirty in this follow-up feature. Instead of being the surprisingly sage font of wisdom that Darius was portrayed as in the first film, he’s done a 180 degree pivot into toxic masculinity, lying to wife Sonia for the primary purpose of an orchestrated plot device, mocking Michael’s therapeutic coping mechanisms, vulnerabilities and psychological disorder. He even laughs at the deep-rooted trauma Michael experienced as a youth. Sonia is also dealt short shrift and saddled with tropes. Her arc is centered on her undying yearning to become a mom, because, you know, she’s a woman. She yells and curses through the already loud action scenes. And screaming the dialogue doesn’t make her jokes funnier. It only makes the lines more insufferable. More appalling is that they turn her into a damsel in distress by the third act. Also, it’s confounding that a career-minded guy like Michael is as aggressively asexual as the filmmakers have written him to be, purely to set up a brief heckling by Sonia. There’s no mention at all of the relationship he was trying to rekindle in the first film.
Hughes shows little to no growth in terms of how he constructs the big set pieces. For every clever, comedy-driven action sequence (like when Michael is busy relaxing as bullets and tourists fly behind him, or when Michael and Darius calmly chat as a bar fight plays out in their presence), there are many more maddeningly straight-forward ones that don’t bother imparting any lasting qualities. A large majority are filmed in a wholly unappealing hyper-speed with added shaky cam to give the appearance of energy. Adding insult to injury, the timing on these sequences is all off. They’re either exhaustingly elongated or breezed by too quickly. Hughes and editors Michael J. Duthie and Jack Hutchings frequently cut away from the fight choreography too fast so the punches don’t land with us.
Making matters worse, Hughes demonstrates no visual dexterity in differentiating each of these massive pursuits or shootouts except by their locations. They all blur together in a truly forgettable glob, which is shocking given the Italian setting (with Croatia, Slovenia and Bulgaria also standing in for a few Italian locations). Cartoonishly violent sequences that should be electric and sure-footed (like when Darius and Michael banter while battling henchmen in a hallway lined with Medieval weapons) feel like a chore for everyone involved. Bring the aspirin bottle so you can shovel the pills in with your popcorn. This is a headache inducer.
THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD releases in theaters on June 16.