Friday, 25 August 2017

The Hitman's Bodyguard is fun with a bit of grit

If sweary language makes you feel uncomfortable – then look away now. Because The Hitman’s Bodyguard is full of it. And if "this guy single-handedly ruined the word ‘motherfucker’,” said of Samuel L Jackson’s character, isn’t one of the lines of the year, then I haven’t heard it yet.

Various reviewers have sighed over Patrick Hughes’s new film, expressing a wearied view as to its apparent staleness.

Perhaps, if one has seen hundreds of odd-couple, road movie flicks, then one might feel the same. I haven’t – and I don’t. And perhaps this is one of the pleasures of only having returned to cinema going in 2015 after a 16-year break.

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is a top bodyguard who finds himself with no option but to protect hired killer, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) as he tries to get the Hague to testify against genocidal Eastern European dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman).

The backstory means that, over the years, Kincaid had made a number of attempts on Bryce’s life – and had killed one of clients, thus rending his reputation somewhat lower than it had been.

Between Coventry (yes, you did read that right) and the Hague itself, there are an awful lot of very violent foot soldiers of Dukhovich in the way, armed to the teeth and determined to stop Kincaid, without whose testimony, the dictator will go free.

Nobody said it was a particularly innovative plot, but this is good fun, made even better than that by the two stars having a field day. The banter never lets up and there are even occasionally one or two interesting little ideas that get thrown in – not least the question of whether the man who protects an arms dealer is really the good guy compared with the man who kills the arms dealer.

Reynolds and Jackson also enjoy excellent support from Élodie Yung as an Interpol agent and former girlfriend of Bryce and Salma Hayek as Kincaid’s equally violent, sweaty wife. Kincaid’s remembered first sight of Sonia is a hoot.

Richard E Grant with a funny little cameo, while Tine Joustra plays it very straight as a senior Interpol officer.

There’s some inventive violence and the car – and boat – chases around Amsterdam are great fun.

The Other Half and I were also able to play our game of: this is not the way you get from A to B – particularly in terms of driving from central London, south over Tower Bridge, to get to London City Airport.

It’s a game we’ve been playing since our very first film together – The Tall Guy. But of course, these routes are planned to show off the locations – and oh boy, this film revels in its use of the locations and makes the most of them.

The banter and comedic elements aside, what helps to give the film some sort of weight is Oldman. His understated performance as Dukhovich is utterly chilling. There is nothing remotely funny about his brutal abuse of power and his murderous attempts to cling to it.

The relationship between, in effect, the two elements of the film could have been jarring, but Hughes handles them well.

If you’re after some cinematic fun this bank holiday weekend, you could do worse than try The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

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