(US/China - 2017)
Directed by Patrick Hughes. Written by Tom O'Connor. Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Richard E. Grant, Kirsty Mitchell, Sam Hazeldine, Rod Hallett, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Tine Joustra, Michael Gor, Barry Atsma, Tsuwayuke Saotome, Josephine De La Baume. (R, 118 mins)
THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD tries to be a throwback to the ballbusting buddy/cop/action movies of the '80s, and its attempts to be 2017's answer to 48 HRS or MIDNIGHT RUN succeeds about 60% of the time. It's a film that gets by almost solely by riffing on the onscreen personas of its two stars, working from a script by Tom O'Connor (whose only previous writing credit is 2012's instantly forgotten Josh Duhamel/Bruce Willis VOD actioner FIRE WITH FIRE) that was floating around Hollywood for several years. That script has obviously been given some extensive polishing to refashion it for both a post-DEADPOOL Ryan Reynolds and the venerable Samuel L. Jackson, cast radically against type as motherfuckin' Samuel L. Jackson. The two stars aren't quite Nick Nolte & Eddie Murphy or Robert De Niro & Charles Grodin, but they might've been if in better hands. Despite A-list actors and location shooting all over Europe, this is still a Millennium/NuImage production, which means most of the money went to the cast and you're gonna get that same backlot at Avi Lerner's Nu Boyana Studios in Bulgaria that's been in countless DTV efforts by the Cannon cover band over the years, and that the Bulgarian clown crew at Worldwide FX will do their part by delivering the least convincing CGI explosions and greenscreen work that Lerner and 31 other credited producers can look at and shrug "Eh, fuck it...it's good enough." Many of the exterior shots that aren't marred by atrocious greenscreen are drenched in a gauzy, smudgy Barbara Walters lens filter. Lerner got a pair of box-office draws with Reynolds and Jackson, but from a filmmaking standpoint, he still approached THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD as if it starred Scott Adkins and Michael Jai White being directed by Isaac Florentine (why isn't he directing this, by the way?). The film does the bare minimum to get by, and it's damn lucky that it's got Reynolds and Jackson to move it along, because without them, this would've gone straight to Redbox.