PLOT A professional bodyguard finds himself protecting his sworn enemy.
CAST Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Elodie Yung
RATED R (strong violence and language)
BOTTOM LINE Solid teamwork from Reynolds and Jackson in this entertaining action-comedy.
Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a former CIA agent who makes a living protecting the wealthy in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” The movie also stars Samuel L. Jackson as Darius Kincaid, a professional assassin. When the two sworn enemies reluctantly join forces, Kincaid philosophically wonders which of them is worse: The one who kills evil people? Or the one who protects them?
Morality may be in short supply here, but fortunately this buddy comedy delivers enough slick action and arch humor to help us over any ethical hurdles. An affable Reynolds and a live-wire Jackson play to their strengths, and they handle the bullets as deftly as the barbs. The violence is bloodier than it really needs to be, but “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” still qualifies as enjoyably light entertainment.
You are advised not to focus too much on the plot, which hinges on a murderous Belarusian dictator (Gary Oldman), whose trial at The Hague will end badly if Kincaid manages to appear and testify. Bryce sort of plops into this story when he gets a desperate call from an old girlfriend (Elodie Yung, in a classically thankless role). Bryce’s motivation is pure ambition: With his career on the skids, this is his chance to do well.
We’re asked to believe in some convenient fictions, namely that Kincaid is one of those noble assassins who only caps bad guys. (He also speaks poetically of his wife, a killing machine in her own right played by Salma Hayek.) Bryce is presented as a beleaguered sourpuss, though he also possesses the skills of Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher combined. For our suspension of disbelief, we are rewarded with some impressive action sequences, including a particularly well-staged fist fight in a restaurant kitchen, and plenty of amusing banter between the two stars.
Are we deeply invested in these characters? Well, no — but the cast is working hard and we’re enjoying their company. With Reynolds shouldering much of the athletics and Jackson stealing most of the laughs with his trademark trumpet-blast delivery, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” turns out to be a pretty good time at the movies.