Remember 2017’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”? No, seriously — do you? Does anyone? You might be surprised to learn that it has spawned a new sequel, “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard”; you might not be surprised to learn that returning director Patrick Hughes has made a movie even more negligible and forgettable than the first one.
These aren’t movies as much as they are spreadsheets; we can imagine the math that determined that an action-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek — all reprising their roles, alongside new additions Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman — could make x number of money based on a budget of y dollars and Euros. What we can’t imagine is how Hughes and screenwriters Tom O’Connor, Phillip Murphy, and Brandon Murphy can so consistently turn a silk purse of a cast into a sow’s ear of a film.
“Hitman’s Wife Bodyguard” is a comedy with not one legitimate laugh, and an action movie where cars keep blowing up while the A-listers yell at each other, as though that were inherently amusing or entertaining. It’s a film that’s both frantic and listless; the overall impression is one of movie stars screaming their lines before returning to their vacations in picturesque Italian settings.
Not that it matters, but the plot concerns Michael (Reynolds), still upset over losing his triple-A status as one of the world’s leading bodyguards following his previous exploits. A therapist urges him to put his guns away and to go on a quiet, restful holiday on the Italian coast. This idyll is short-lived, because Sonia (Hayek) arrives, guns a-blazing, to force Michael to help her rescue her husband Darius (Jackson) from kidnappers.
The trio are eventually forced by INTERPOL agent Bobby (Frank Grillo) to help him track down the film’s MacGuffin, a device that Greek tycoon Aristotle (Banderas) wants to use to plunge all of Europe into a blackout as revenge for the EU’s sanctions on the Greek economy. Along the way, they seek assistance from Freeman, in a role that critics have been asked not to reveal but which isn’t nearly as clever as the movie thinks it is.
Enemies forced to work together, elaborate car chases that end in explosions, and famous people camping it up with material they realize is nonsense can all, in the right hands, be lots of fun, but fun is in very short supply here. What we get instead is perhaps the antithesis – the existential dread of knowing that a movie isn’t working, and that no one making it seems to care, and that there’s still another hour or so to go before it’s all over.
Credit to cinematographer Terry Stacey (“Yes Day”), for imbuing a sunny gloss to the European locales while also understanding that the machinery — the guns, the SUVs, the yachts — are the real stars here, and filming them appropriately. Of the actors, only Grillo seems to strike the balance of taking the story just seriously enough to keep the movie on track; everyone else seems detached, as though they were appearing in a pointless sequel purely out of financial interest or contractual requirement. (Yes, a lot of actors make movies strictly for the money, but pretending to care falls under the umbrella of “acting.”)
After more than a year of being placed on hold, audiences everywhere are hungry to return to movie theaters so they may once again enjoy the delight of the communal experience and the magic of a dark room with a big bright screen and booming speakers. Now, with theaters slowly filling up again, the studios are going to be clearing the shelves of their most negligible product before the big summer titles launch. Amid this rummage sale, almost any other movie screening at a multiplex that isn’t “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is more worth that wait.
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” opens in US theaters June 16.