Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | June 15th, 2021
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (Patrick Hughes, 2021) 1 out of 4 stars.
There’s nothing much good to say about The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, director Patrick Hughes’ follow-up to his 2017 The Hitman’s Bodyguard, except that it makes the first film feel like a masterpiece by comparison. I hadn’t seen the original until a few weeks ago, when I decided to check it out in preparation for its sequel. Starring Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) as the bodyguard, forced to watch over the hitman played by Samuel L. Jackson (Captain Marvel), it offers a lively enough combination of action and comedy, though with a distractingly high body count. Now these guys are back, along with the hitman’s wife (who was also in that initial entry), played by Salma Hayek (Beatriz at Dinner). Gone is the silly but effective fun, replaced by a nastiness that undergirds every forced joke and stunt. What a mess.
And not just of the bloody kind. Character motivations that once made some kind of sense are now replaced by odd quirks of personality invented for the sole purpose of driving the new story. Much as in the partially misbegotten Back to the Future Part II, in which Marty McFly is suddenly saddled with a “chicken” complex that never previously existed, here Reynolds’ Michael Bryce finds himself, at the start, lost in the shame of having lost his license in the first movie. Except that while that certainly bothered him before, it was hardly crippling. Yet we begin with Bryce in therapy, unable to do much of anything until his psychiatrist sends him off to Italy for some needed R&R. You know, because that’s what shrinks do.
Once at his beachside resort, Michael is, indeed, relaxing when the amusingly foul-mouthed Sonia Kincaid (Hayek), our titular spouse, shows up to spoil the fun. There’s no real rhyme or reason for this (sure, there’s an explanation in the script, but still … ) other than to create mayhem in the background, arterial spray and guts decorating the frame. She’s there to recruit the depressed Michael to help her rescue husband Darius (Jackson) from the clutches of a gangster. Except she doesn’t know that the once-storied bodyguard has taken a vow of no guns. A lot of good he will do.
Instead, Michael is set up as a foil, punching bag and punchline to every bad attempt at humor throughout. Almost nothing lands, and the addition of the glowering, overacting Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory) only makes things worse. He’s an angry Greek tycoon out for vengeance against the European Union for enacting further economic sanctions against his country for its financial mismanagement. He also has history with one of our three protagonists, a fact that complicates a crass pregnancy plot line. Wait, crass? That? Actually, everything is, to the nth degree, without the benefit of actually being funny. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard may have (three pairs of) legs, but it uses none of them. Let’s kill it now, to avoid the next installment.