[Screen It]


(2017) (Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson) (R)

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Action/Comedy: A one-time highly rated but now disgraced bodyguard is called up by his ex, an Interpol agent, to protect a deadly assassin who's set to testify against a genocidal dictator.
Michael Bryce (RYAN REYNOLDS) was once a highly rated executive protection agent for some of the world's richest people, but the execution of one his high profile clients derailed his career, leaving him a former shell of his once highly polished self. Now two years after that incident -- which he wrongly blamed on his then girlfriend, Interpol agent Amelia Roussel (ELODIE YUNG) -- he still provides protective services, but mostly to mid-level attorneys with drug issues.

Unbeknownst to him, he's about to be drawn back into the high-level world of protective services. And that's because Amelia -- working for Interpol officers Renata Casoria (TINE JOUSTRA) and Jean Foucher (JOAQUIM DE ALMEIDA) -- has been tasked, along with her team, to escort infamous assassin Darius Kincaid (SAMUEL L. JACKSON) from prison to an Interpol courtroom to testify against Vladislav Dukhovich (GARY OLDMAN), the President of Belarus. Imprisoned for genocide and other atrocities that have targeted his own people, Dukhovich is so feared and has so many goons working for him that nearly everyone is terrified to testify against him.

That is, except for Darius who's only agreed to do so in exchange for the release of his wife, Sonia (SALMA HAYEK), from an Interpol prison. But during his transport under the protection of Amelia and her team, Dukhovich's forces attack them, resulting in many deaths on both sides, although Darius and Amelia manage to escape. Despite their past breakup and with no better options, Amelia contacts Michael and asks for his help. He reluctantly agrees, but is surprised and maddened to see that his "package" is none other than his longtime enemy, Darius. The two then make an unlikely duo as they try to avoid Dukhovich's goons in hopes of getting Darius to the courtroom to testify before time expires and Dukhovich is set free.

OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
In the game of football, it's always nice to have players who can be versatile and thus jump to another position in case of injuries and such. Overall, however, coaches, owners, and fans want highly skilled professionals who excel at their chosen position. No one really wants to see Tom Brady attempt to play defensive end, and having JJ Watt take over punting duties likely isn't high on anyone's list.

The same goes for any profession, be that a hitman (who likely wouldn't be as good bagging groceries at a supermarket), bodyguard (as a meteorologist) or movie star (as a politician -- oh wait, that's already happened). I use those three examples as they're associated with "The Hitman's Bodyguard," the latest action-comedy hybrid film where a disgraced bodyguard is called upon to protect a hitman and get him to an important trial as the key witness.

In this offering from director Patrick Hughes ("The Expendables 3") and screenwriter Tom O'Connor, Ryan Reynolds plays the bodyguard in exactly the way you'd imagine the actor would portray such a character -- smirking, somewhat smug, sometimes self-deprecating and so on. It's an example of the performer playing to his strengths, and if you love that sort of thing, you'll love him in this role.

The same goes for Samuel L. Jackson who plays the hitman. Name or just think of most any role the veteran actor has played over the years and you'll find many of the same if not incredibly similar characteristics on display, including that hyped up, wide-eyed, manic use of the "F" word in its various forms and possible deployments. Again, if you enjoy Jackson doing that, you'll probably have a blast watching him do what he does best.

It's hard to say if the parts were originally written that way (and for those exact performers) or if they were modified along the way by the actors. Either way, the characters easily could have been named Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson rather than Michael Bryce and Darius Kincaid and few would have batted a critical eye.

The same can be said for Gary Oldman playing a ruthless and corrupt authority figure or Salma Hayek portraying a sassy and sexy Latina woman who's more than capable of handling herself. They've done these sorts of portrayals so many times before that they're obviously believable in the part.

That said, while it's good to have football players repeat what they've done before to help the team to victory, sometimes some of us prefer to see actors stretch and do something different, or have newer performers fill the familiar roles and thus bring something new to them.

If you're looking for any of that, this isn't your film, and the same critique can obviously be applied to the script. We've seen this sort of setup before (two main characters who are at odds with each other end up teamed together to take down the one-dimensional villain while some romantic subplots play out), and O'Connor's script offers little if anything new to such a scenario and storyline.

I'll admit a few moments and bits of dialogue -- even if as familiar and predictable as can be -- end up ranging from amusing to funny. But the action sequences -- as numerous and frenetic as they might be -- are mediocre at best, have been seen and done better in other films, and they often drag on far longer than they should. They certainly pale in comparison to similar material found and far better executed in "Atomic Blonde" from a few weeks back.

So, while the main performers are good at playing such characters and could do so, as they say, in their sleep, films like this need a wakeup call to do something -- anything -- different with the formula under which they operate and exist.

If you don't mind more of the same old, same old, this offering might fill your cinematic viewing needs. For those of us who've seen all of this before, its familiarity ends up robbing the film, its characters, and those playing them of the opportunity to create something novel or memorable. "The Hitman's Bodyguard" is neither and thus rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

Reviewed August 15, 2017 / Posted August 18, 2017

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