The Hitman’s Bodyguard review: Can Reynolds and Jackson sink much lower?

Elaborate action sequences fail to cover up the cliched characters and general idiocy

The Hitman's Bodyguard
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Director: Patrick Hughes
Cert: 16
Genre: Action
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung
Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins

If you heard a suspicious helicopter outside your house last spring, there is some small chance that the folk behind this bizarre action comedy were to blame.

It would not be true to say that half the film is taken up with aerial shots of European cities that offer generous tax breaks: London, Amsterdam, Manchester, the Hague, Coventry (no, really). It just feels that way. It feels as if the other half is taken up with good actors slumming their way through cliched variations on their most profitable personae.

I'm afraid Salma Hayek actually does play a Mexican firecracker required to shout "cucaracha!" whenever the noise dies down. Samuel L Jackson is laboured with yet more bargain-basement sub-Tarantino comebacks. "My job is to keep you out of harm's way," Ryan Reynolds says. "Shut up, motherf**ker!" Sam replies. "I am harm's way!" Yeah, I know it makes no sense, but we have to hurry on before the helicopter pilot loses the light. Essaying another racially stereotyped villain from an unreleased Charlie Chan movie (this one is Belarusian), Gary Oldman secures his hold on the Malcolm McDowell trophy for most squandered talent of his generation. No piece of scenery is left unchewed.

Reynolds comes off least badly in a film that certainly composes its clunky set-pieces on a grand scale. It’s all there in the title. The sometime Deadpool plays a bodyguard who is required to deliver Jackson’s hitman to a trial in The Hague. Twisting recent history to an offensive level, the script imagines General Oldmanski carrying out genocide in a civil war that never actually happened. Jackson is the one witness who can put him away.


The picture commits other, less distasteful mistakes that have been common in eurothrillers for decades. Once again, rather than being the document-shuffling bureaucracy it really is, Interpol becomes a global police force with the right to ignore national borders. The Hitman's Bodyguard almost compensates for such howlers with a series of elaborate action sequences that look to have cost squillions. (Pat yourself on your back if you know that the speedboat chase through the Dutch capital borrows forgivably from Dick Maas's excellent 1988 film Amsterdamned.)

Unfortunately, the surrounding idiocy is too lazy and irritating to entirely forgive. It’s supposed to be a dumb film, but it’s dumber than it’s supposed to be. If you get my drift.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist