When Ryan Reynolds played bodyguard to Samuel L Jackson’s hitman in 2017, it sounded like a dream team. Reynolds, with his throwaway style and riding on the back of Deadpool’s success, and Jackson, The King Of Cool, mixing it up with the likes of The Avengers and Quentin Tarantino. Bringing them together in an action comedy looked fool proof.
Putting aside whether the original The Hitman’s Bodyguard lived up to those expectations (clue: it didn’t, but that didn’t stop it being a hit at the worldwide box office), most of its entertainment value actually came from Salma Hayek as Jackson’s ballsy and potty mouthed wife. So there’s a certain logic in placing her centre stage for the sequel. In The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, disgraced Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is still trying to get back his triple A rating, Darius (Jackson) is still a hitman but now kidnapped by the Mafia and wife Sonia (Hayek) is trying to rescue him in her own inimitable fashion, with help from Bryce. Freeing him is the least of their problems, as they soon find themselves up against arch villain Aristotle Papadopolous (Antonio Banderas) and his plan to get revenge on Europe for nearly bankrupting his beloved home country of Greece.
Director Patrick Hughes returns for this re-run, and that’s essentially what it is – not so much a follow-up as a repeat with a slight shift in emphasis. The same double act is held back from making the most of its comic potential, beautiful locations yet again act mainly as a backdrop for a succession of huge explosions and car chases and the same feeling lingers that the film belongs back in the 80s when buddy movies of this type were in their heyday. This time, however, it’s as if Hughes knows that there’s nothing new to bring to the table, so he relies on references to the first outing – a return cameo from Richard E Grant and another embarrassing moment in front of a group of nuns – in the hope that the audience will remember.
What’s more disappointing is that he doesn’t capitalise on Hayek’s bigger role, even though she does inject some much-needed gusto into proceedings. And the script uses her mangled English and love of invective as the main attempt at humour. In fact, it does the same with everybody’s dialogue and the result is just downright lazy. Sure, language can create laughter, but comedy – especially when it has a running time of an hour and 40 minutes – needs a little bit more. Things like wit and imagination, both conspicuous by their absence.
While it’s meant to be a large slice of popcorn action entertainment, all the explosions and chases, the feeble script and Hayek’s energy can’t disguise what lies beneath – a routine action comedy that’s simply a repeat of the average original and ends up being a pale imitation. Its three lead actors deserve better – and the audience can only cling to the hope that a threequel isn’t on the cards.
Comedy, Action | Cert: 15 | Lionsgate | Cinemas | Previews from 14 June 2021. General release on 18 June 2021 | Dir. Patrick Hughes | Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo.