Some movies just nail the zeitgeist, you know? It's uncanny the way certain filmmakers have their finger so tightly on the public pulse that, even though their new release began shooting a year earlier and was written well before then, it taps into the popular consciousness on opening weekend to a practically psychic degree. The Hitman's Bodyguard does the opposite.
Can you conceive of a less appropriate moment in modern history for a tasteless, tone-deaf action laugher that mines the comic possibilities of terrorists driving trucks into crowds of innocent people and portrays allied leaders as hacks? The plot revolves around a tyrant who suggests a fictional fusion of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump — one who even attempts to obstruct justice when charges are brought against him. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see the Mooch pop up in bonus scenes in the director's cut.
I'm genuinely impressed that a director as inexperienced and evidently talent-free as Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) was capable of doing so much jaw-droppingly wrong. His handling of the material comes off so calculatingly, provocatively offensive as to invite comparison to a late-career Andy Kaufman bit. Except there aren't any laughs.
Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a formerly triple-A-rated executive protection agent who's fallen on hard times since letting one of his clients get killed. Samuel L. Jackson is Darius Kincaid, a notorious hit man who, as fate and lazy screenwriting would have it, is also the guy who whacked Bryce's client. When Kincaid has to be delivered safely to the Hague to testify against Gary Oldman's ruthless Belarusian dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich, who's Interpol gonna call? Reynolds, natch.
You can fill in the blanks from there. The two start out with bad blood, but, before you know it, they're best buds trading imitation Tarantino banter in one soon-to-be-pulverized auto after another as members of Dukhovich's militia mysteriously ambush them at every turn. Those generic chases and shoot-outs are necessary because, get this: We learn the militia tracked the pair using the signal from Kincaid's cell. We're supposed to believe a criminal mastermind doesn't know how that works?
Not only is all this indescribably tiresome, it's also more than a tad sad to watch Jackson slum through such Pulp Fiction-derivative nonsense. Every scene plays like a middle-school drama class trying to replicate the soaring flights of repartee between his Jules Winnfield and John Travolta's Vincent Vega.
Then there's the plot's central race-against-the-clock device. We're supposed to believe that, if Kincaid doesn't make it to the Hague by five on the dot, international law sets the genocidal maniac free. Seriously?
That, ironically, is the funny thing about this comedy. Written by Tom O'Connor in 2011, The Hitman's Bodyguard was originally a drama. In 2016 it reportedly underwent a frantic rewrite days before shooting. Hmm, that could explain a few things. Such as its scattershot narrative, overall cartoonishness and general brain death.
By the way, you needn't feel too badly for Jackson. Personal finances didn't force him to make this feebleminded film. More than 100 movie appearances, voice work in animated pictures and video games, membership in the Marvelverse and easy paychecks from commercials have made him the highest-grossing actor of all time.
What's in your wallet? Whatever it is, my advice is to leave it there. And wait for that director's cut. Next to the people who made this, the Mooch looks like a frickin' genius.