Sitting in a theater filled with cackling moviegoers, that fateful Tuesday evening begged the question all critics must ask themself at one point in time: Do I hate fun?
Clearly,”The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was doing something right to entertain this auditorium, but the gratuitous violence, profanity-dependent humor and all around stupidity didn’t work its magic on me. Now, I know I don’t hate fun – my recent “Fast & Furious” binge will tell you that – but even the return of the theatrical experience and the energy of the crowd could not rescue this mess of a film.
It’s not that anyone should expect a masterclass in plot from “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (See: My reaction to the series’ first installment in 2017 above), but the film can never decide whether to lean into complete absurdity or to try and play it semi-straight.
Renowned bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is back, but after the disastrous events of the first film he has lost his bodyguarding license, leaving him an aimless, emotional wreck. Just when Bryce thinks his life might be getting back on track, Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) brings chaos back to the forefront. The titular wife of hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) is desperate to find her missing husband, and she believes Bryce to be the only one who can crack the case.
But Darius’s kidnapping brings a more sinister plot to light. With political and economic turmoil crippling the once proud nation of Greece, passionate countryman and top mobster Aristotle Papadopolous (played by the notably not-Greek Antonio Banderas) has a plan to restore it to its former glory. Papadopolous’s plan involves drilling into an all-powerful “data junction” that controls the entirety of Europe in order to thrust the whole continent into chaos. So, let me rephrase: It’s not quite a plan to restore Greece, just one to make other countries look equally shitty?
It’s truly quite a mess.
By the name of Banderas’ character alone, it’s easy to determine that this movie does not take itself seriously. At the same time, it feels as if it’s trying too hard to be an uber-serious “John Wick”-style action film with gritty, excessive violence and blood. The sheer ridiculousness of the plot juxtaposed with this type of spectacle creates a strange tonal imbalance that makes the movie feel as if it never knew which direction it wanted to go.
In the second act, though, a direction finally appears to be set. Caution is thrown to the wind and it looks like director Patrick Hughes is ready to fully embrace the nonsensical. Morgan Freeman is introduced to be playing Michael Bryce Sr., Reynolds’ father, and Bryce Jr. is revealed to have caused the traumatic gelato-involved death of his mother in an absurd scene that looks straight out of a “Final Destination” parody. With half a movie left to unfold, this thing could get back on track if it simply stays this ridiculo– aaaaaand it’s back to the mix and match tones.
Just as in the first film, there’s no question about the chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson on screen, and Hayek is a welcome addition to the charismatic crew. But when they have nothing to shout at each other but curse words and gags about Hayek’s figure, it’s hard not to feel as if this trio has been wasted.
If there was one pleasant surprise about “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” it came in the shape of a brief 99-minute runtime – down 17 minutes from the length listed on IMDb and Google. The film may have gone back and forth on its levels of self-awareness, but at least one thing was clear: audiences can only handle so much of these antics at once.
While an encounter with the hitman, his wife and the bodyguard is certain to be violent and painful, the trio almost always put their victims out of their misery swiftly. Lucky for audiences, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” does the same.
“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” hits theaters on June 16, 2021.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Charlotte, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.