The first Hitman’s Bodyguard is nobody’s idea of a great movie, but under the right set of circumstances it could be the source of a great time. I encountered the optimal such factors when I watched it with some tipsy friends whose idea of a movie night usually features beer and pizza. While that 2017 film was rote and overly familiar, the affable chemistry between Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds and some excellent stunt work, went a long way.
I wish I could report that The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard achieves similar lowbrow charm, particularly for audiences starved for any kind of breezy summer spectacle this week. Sadly, though, it really doesn’t matter if you come to this actioner in theaters or at home, sober or three sheets to the wind. The best circumstance by which to approach this is not at all.
That disappointment is all the more bitter since at least Salma Hayek shows up and gives 100 percent. She plays Sonia, the eponymous spouse of the Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard title. When we meet her, she comes in guns literally blazing, and with a plan to kidnap Michael Bryce (Reynolds). It seems that despite bringing a war criminal to justice in the last movie, Bryce is still on the outs with the international bodyguard review board. So he’s decided to find some “Me Time” by vacationing/throwing a pity party on the Italian coast.
That’s where Sonia shows up to smack the perpetually boyish smile off Reynolds’ face and enlist him to save Darius (Jackson), Bryce’s former hitman client who’s now been captured by bad guys. The actual scheme Darius stumbled into is as impenetrable as it is pointless, but suffice to say it has something to do with a Greek tycoon (Antonio Banderas) destroying all of Europe in order to Make Greece Great Again.
Look, plot should never be the strong point of a greasy action franchise like these Hitman’s Bodyguard movies, and it certainly isn’t here. And yet, low-aiming genre flicks will still play better when their qualities aren’t tripping over the setup every five minutes. Alas, Hitman’s Wife is stumbling more often than that. In a convoluted effort to get Jackson and Reynolds’ oil and water energy together again, and for Hayek to also join in the mayhem, the largely nonsensical script contorts itself into such odd shapes that it wastes most of its running time laying track for a train that never arrives. As unoriginal as The Hitman’s Bodyguard was, it had a clear through-line: Reynolds must get Jackson from Point A to Point B before a ticking clock runs out. Bad guys will try to stop them.
All the underdeveloped lip-service in Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife devoted to Banderas planning to wipe out Europe to pay off Greece’s debt, and sequences of a wasted Frank Grillo walking on screen long enough to scream a handful of obscenities at the main trio and then disappear again in a subplot that was left on the cutting room floor, leaves precious little time for the three main buddies to act… Well, buddy-buddy.
Despite this being a sequel to a movie which pivoted around Jackson and Reynolds’ give-and-take, it isn’t until the third act (around the 75-minute mark) that they have any significant screen time together which isn’t just screaming curse words back and forth. Neither appears to be engaged by the material this time out either, with Jackson in particular performing on autopilot. The one saving grace, then, is the woman sandwiched between them for the road trip.
Hayek is a blast of energy in a tired film that’s often just going through the motions. Her Sonia is loud, abrasive, and determined to chew every last shred of gorgeous Italian scenery. As with Reynolds and Jackson, the screenplay still doesn’t give her enough to do beyond yelling “fuck’ a lot—the word is even the film’s closest approximation to a running joke—but by God she is going to drop those F-bombs. It’s telling, too, that she’s much more alive when she’s sharing the screen with old Desperado co-star Banderas than the two leads.
To be fair, some of the humor does work, most of it seeming to be off-the-cuff improvisations by Reynolds. There’s also a pretty good gag involving a cameo that I won’t spoil here. All of which allows for intermittent chuckles throughout the movie. Nevertheless, it would be charitable to say the picture strains to sustain its 99-minute running time.
As an action flick, there are two good set pieces near the end, one involving Jackson getting to go medieval in an Italian castle, but director Patrick Hughes (who also helmed the first movie), mostly struggles to just land this thing in one piece.
When the first film opened four years ago, it appeared to offer a violent, goofy R-rated distraction from Hollywood’s increasingly polished (and toothless) spectacle. The movie was too trashy and unambitious to become the next John Wick—though half-hearted attempts to build a bodyguard underworld mythology still try to do exactly that—but it was fine for what it was. By contrast, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is mainly trash.
Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard opens on June 16 in the U.S. and is now playing in the UK.