Tuesday, September 18, 2018
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Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson can't keep 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' on-target

The Hitman's Bodyguard is an assault tank on semi-automatic pilot, spraying jokes and bullets with only the ammo consistently hitting its targets. The irresistible teaming of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson might be even funnier if they missed once in a while.

This movie's violence is numbing, each kill shot, power tool mangling, beer bottle stabbing and jumper cable torture session intruding on the rascal stars' charms. Director Patrick Hughes' instinct isn't to find dark humor in violence, only to graphically depict it. There's a sadistic edge to The Hitman's Bodyguard that's unbecoming to its comedy.

Casting is everything in such generic action trappings. Reynolds and Jackson add new fizz to the stale formula of cross-cultured adversaries bonding over bullets. Depending on the scene, The Hitman's Bodyguard plays like an homage to and parody of '80s bromantic mayhem, like 48 Hrs. with a shorter deadline.

That's because high risk bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) has only 27 hours to deliver master assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) to the International Court of Justice. Darius can verify that a Belarus dictator (Gary Oldman) is a war criminal. The dictator wants him dead. Simple enough.

A platoon of Belarusian goons led by Ed Sheeran's evil twin chase Michael and Darius from Interpol headquarters to the Hague, making good use of Amsterdam's scenery. It's a relatively short journey by Mission: Impossible standards, interrupted by various gunfights, beatdowns and too many exploding vehicles to count.

At its best, The Hitman's Bodyguard oozes with personality, not fake blood.

Michael is a character squarely in Reynolds' range, a perfect specimen of cosmopolitan manhood with everything but the girl. He'll need to become a better man for that. Few sex symbols lean so heavily upon insolence as an aphrodisiac or blank expressions while calculating corners he's backed into. The Hitman's Bodyguard is a shallower Deadpool for Reynolds to splash around.

Jackson plays exactly who he usually does on screen, the baddest person in the room if not always the smartest. Certainly the most profane. Despite what Michael says, Darius does not give a certain 12-letter epithet a bad name. The actor playing him makes it punctuation to decreasing comedic effect.

Darius talks sweeter to this movie's wild card, Salma Hayek as his wife, Sonia, whose release from prison is the deal for testifying in court. Hayek has a ball flinging f-bombs and inflicting carnage of her own, a ripened callback to From Dusk Till Dawn. A flashback to the couple's first meeting — love at first slash — is the balance of horror and humor this movie's violence needs.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

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