I should’ve been in the bag for “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (now playing in theaters). I’m a fan of action-comedies as a subgenre, the first installment from 2017, returning Australian director Patrick Hughes, his primary cast (Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman and Frank Grillo) and production shingle Millennium Media (they’re the modern day Cannon Films!). In spite of all of this, the picture landed with a bit of a thud for me.
Reynolds returns as formerly AAA-rated bodyguard Michael Bryce, who’s still smarting from having lost a prized client at the hands of Jackson’s Darius Kincaid. At the insistence of his therapist (Rebecca Front), Bryce takes a vacation to Capri, Italy (“like the pants!”). Just as Bryce is relaxing and cheekily cracking a copy of “The Secret,” he’s interrupted by Darius’ wife Sonia (Hayek) and a hail of gunfire. Turns out Darius has been kidnapped and Sonia’s in need of Bryce’s assistance in order to rescue him.
Upon freeing Darius, the trio is forcefully enlisted by Interpol agent Bobby O’Neill (Grillo) to put a stop to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas), who has intentions of dismantling the European power grid as revenge for EU restrictions over his country and company. Freeman’s Senior is also roped into the action as the parent of one of our protagonists.
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is pretty much what you’d expect it to be … only less. Reynolds mugs his way through the proceedings, Jackson drops his requisite number of “fuck’s” and Hayek makes cracks about her boobs and “pussy pipe.” I can’t decide whether Hayek’s great or grating here, but I did admittedly enjoy Sonia’s strange motherly gestures towards Bryce.
In the best bit of casting since Sean Connery played a Spaniard in “Highlander” or Emma Stone went Asian in “Aloha” is Spaniard Banderas as the Greek Papadopoulos. I must admit I laughed every time Papadopoulos’ name was uttered. Much like Gary Oldman as the baddie in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” Banderas pretty much phones it in. Speaking of phoning it in, Freeman seems confused and near death’s door in yet another Millennium Media production (perhaps it’s time for the rightfully beloved 84-year-old actor to retire?) and Grillo unsuccessfully attempts to transform his New York accent into a Boston one in an exposition dump of a role.
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is to “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” what “The Whole Ten Yards” is to “The Whole Nine Yards,” “Red 2” is to “Red” or “Beverly Hills Cop III” is to the first two “Beverly Hills Cop” pictures. (The only action-comedy franchise that seems to have cracked the code is “Bad Boys.”) The action isn’t as thrilling (the best bit is brief and involves water hoverboards). The laughs aren’t as present (original scripter Tom O’Connor is joined by brothers Brandon and Phillip Murphy, who up the jokiness – most of ‘em miss). The franchise takes a step down and backward. Here’s hoping it’s put out of its misery and we’re not “treated” to “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’s Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin, etc.”