“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” has perhaps the best running gag about seat-belt use in recent memory. This may sound like a small achievement, but it does provide a satisfying payoff.
The movie’s like that: full of nasty surprises. Here is a recipe that ought to be well past its sell-by date: cynical action comedy, lots of mismatched-buddy humor, reliance on ironic pop songs, obvious casting in the lead roles.
But the film proves there’s gas left in that particular tank, however familiar this mash-up looks.
Tom O’Connor’s script matches fussy professional bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) with loudmouth hired assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). The currently incarcerated Kincaid must be safely transported from England to Holland, where he will give testimony that could convict a notorious Eastern European politician (Gary Oldman).
Bryce and Kincaid despise each other for past offenses. So their journey — interrupted every few hours by Uzi-toting minions seeking to kill them — is a bumpy one.
Look, it’s an action film. Breathless chase scenes and ferocious gun battles are spaced out like clockwork, as are scenes of the two men bickering.
Reynolds delivers wry wisecracks in his signature manner, and Jackson bellows and cackles. Neither is pushed to anything new, but they know what they’re doing, and although the script has its share of clinkers, some of the lines are genuinely good.
There’s also a tasty supporting role for Salma Hayek, as Kincaid’s lethal wife (the flashback to their first meeting is absurd and funny), and Elodie Yung is appealing as an Interpol agent who taps ex-boyfriend Bryce for the job.
And, if you’re a connoisseur of Gary Oldman’s villainy, you can savor the great actor putting a Belarusian spin on lines like, “Een my country we would skeen you like a cat.”
Director Patrick Hughes steals a bit from “Deadpool” and other R-rated action comedies, and this one doesn’t rise to the level of, say, last year’s “The Nice Guys.” But almost every scene has an unexpected twist or joke, and Hughes speeds things along and mounts some hair-raising stunts, including a chase through the canals of Amsterdam.
There are worse ways to spend a late-summer evening at the multiplex — you could see “The Dark Tower,” after all. Just make sure your seat belt is fastened.
“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (3 stars)
Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds escorts hitman Samuel L. Jackson from England to Holland, a journey made bumpy by the fact that they hate each other and Eastern European bad guys are trying to kill them. This formula should be past its sell-by date, yet the movie speeds along and fulfills the cynical requirements of an R-rated action comedy in an entertaining way.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Marysville, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas, Woodinville, Cascade Mall