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Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds star in

Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds star in "The Hitman's Bodyguard," in cinemas Friday

Lionsgate Pictures

Lionsgate Pictures

Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds star in "The Hitman's Bodyguard," in cinemas Friday

Joshua Irvine

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“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is one of those movies that uses that aggressively italicized action movie font with a whoosh sound and a lens flare for its opening titles. It’s a style that tells you that this movie will be fast-paced, that it will be aggressive, that it will have fast cars and faster gunfights and Evil Gingers and damsels with Desert Eagles – or it will get its kicks out of mercilessly parodying each and every one of those tropes.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” decides early on to have it both ways, and prepares appropriately; it sets up a disturbingly unsanitized plot with a genocidal dictator on trial in The Hague, smatters a few official looking Interpol types in suits, mixes in unavailable for one reason or another love interests, and finally drops its leading men into it.

Those leading men are Sam Jackson and Ryan Reynolds, and the pairing is instant gold.

Jackson is the hitman in the title; Reynolds is the bodyguard. As is to be expected, they don’t like each other. Reynolds chafes at Jackson’s constant refusal to abide by his everything-short-of-patented brand of careful; Jackson is more than happy to call Reynolds out for his anal-retentive BS, particularly when it comes to a female Interpol agent that Reynolds pushed away after a job gone wrong.

The two characters have names, but the audience will know them as Sam Jackson and Ryan Reynolds and they know each other by an expletive that anyone whose seen a good Sam Jackson movie knows for each of its melodically vulgar syllables.

They intersperse that word with dialogue so bitingly dry and hilarious it could push Reynolds’ other action movie snarkfest (“Deadpool”) into obscurity. It’s got lines so simple and yet so cool, like when Jackson declares “I AM harm’s way,” in response to a predictable statement by Reynolds.

Together, they get shot at a bunch, mostly because Jackson is going to give testimony that will get that dictator thrown in jail and that dictator has paid a bunch of men to make sure that doesn’t happen. So Reynolds and Jackson shoot back, then they get into a car or boat or on a motorcycle and shoot some more, and this pretty much carries the film on it’s gory cross-continent trek from London to the Netherlands.

It’s a lightweight plot that is predictable from start to finish, but it earns its respect for how earnestly it plays it. It even puts the notorious madman Gary Oldman as the dictator, which makes how little he has to do sitting on trial almost depressing.

It delivers full-bodied performances from everyone else, though. The best outside of Jackson/Reynolds comes from Selma Hayek as Jackson’s imprisoned wife, who wields that same excellent curse word against her Interpol captors with the off-the-cuff grace of an improvising jazz artist. We believe Jackson’s in love with her because she meets his crazy in spades.

Its action sequences, though obligatory, deserve some mention. They’re fairly generic, yes, but cleverly executed and edited enough that we can occasionally tell what’s going on, and it keeps the audience paying attention.

The end result of all this is a perfect action comedy. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is simple, joyous, obscene, and absolutely wonderful.

 

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