By Aaron Rourke (Melbourne, Australia)

 

Has American screen comedy hit such a spectacular low now, or are scriptwriters and film-makers deliberately going out of their way to make the worst film possible, hoping to outdo the laughless atrocity that preceded it?

Triple-A rated protection agent Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), who prides himself on co-ordinating each mission down to the smallest detail, sees his career go into free-fall when his latest client, a noted Japanese businessman, is successfully assassinated right before his eyes. Two years later, Bryce is a second-tier bodyguard-for-hire, looking after paranoid, cocaine-fuelled CEO’s.

Infamous hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), recently captured by the FBI, agrees to testify against Iron Curtain dictator, and short-lived boss-to-be, Vladislav Dukhovich (a seriously slumming Gary Oldman), so his incarcerated wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) can be set free. Afforded proper protection for his dangerous trip from Manchester to The Hague, Kincaid and his guardians are immediately attacked by Dukhovich’s goons. Decimated from the violent ambush, and fearing internal corruption, agent Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung) calls Bryce, whom she was formally in a relationship with, for help. Bryce reluctantly agrees, as he is promised he will be re-instated as a triple-A agent if he successfully transports Kincaid to his all-important court-hearing. The two of course don’t get along, as there is also a history between them, but as the journey continues, they slowly start to form a bond, particularly when the body count starts to pile up.

A potentially fun premise, that could have been a breezily enjoyable 88 minute action/comedy, is bloated out to 118 minutes, for no discernible reason other than incompetence, with Tom O’Connor’s script devoid of laughs and interestingly developed characters, and Australian director Patrick Hughes seemingly having no idea how to deliver expertly-timed humour and excitingly staged mayhem to the screen. O’Connor’s only other writing credit is the 2012 action/drama Fire With Fire, starring Bruce Willis.

Whoever is Hughes’ agent, needs to be given some kind of special award. After Hughes dropped the ball in possibly creating Australia’s first film noir outback western, he somehow managed to score the gig helming the third entry in Stallone’s surprisingly popular franchise The Expendables. Easily the worst in the series (quite an effort, given how bad the second one was), the box-office returns of The Expendables 3 were hurt by the finished print being leaked online before release, but nothing could hide the film’s lack of distinction or energy. Hughes allows almost every scene here to go on longer than what it should, killing any chance of any kind of comic timing or narrative flow, making what should be fast-paced, lighthearted entertainment into something that becomes a serious chore to sit through.

The lack of chemistry between the leads, and an absence of well-written one-liners reminds one of the 1997 misfire Father’s Day, with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, where the film-makers lazily relied on the talents of its leading actors, expecting them to do all the heavy lifting. As such we never get actual characterisations, just the general persona of the performers themselves. Reynolds (who shot this before the mega-hit Deadpool) is his usual wise-cracking, slick-yet-self-depriciating self, while Jackson just swears and glares to the extreme. These one-note performances become tiresome very, very quickly, but admittedly the actors have nothing to work with.

Salma Hayek is supremely irritating as Jackson’s incarcerated, loud-mouthed wife, Oldman appears completely disinterested as Dukhovich, and a supposedly surprise twist is anything but, due to obvious casting.

With the highly entertaining South Korean film Midnight Runners showing how a buddy film should be done, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is yet another in a depressingly long line of comedic travesties coming out of Hollywood, a trend I really hope finishes as soon as possible.

Rating: 1/5

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