It would have to be a very strong candidate for the adrenaline-pumping action film of the year. As might be expected from the title, there is a fair amount of violence but most of it is quite tongue-in- cheek – and the tongue-in-cheekiness extends to a lot of ironic humour, deadpan remarks, and the use of popular songs to counterpoint the action.
In fact, the title even sounds tongue-in-cheek. Why would a hitman need a bodyguard?
It takes a little time before there is an answer to this question. The film opens with a rather James Bond-like introduction, cars through London, helicopter over London, a respectful scene at an airport with a sudden assassination. This is the realm of the bodyguard, Michael (Ryan Reynolds). With the assassination of his client happening right in front of him, Michael is demoted, fired and has to go into private enterprise. To keep the humorous flavour, there is an interlude where Michael, looking rather dishevelled – although he usually operates in a suit and tie – has to escort the panicky businessman, Richard E. Grant, from a building from which he has eliminated all the shooters.
There are also some sequences early in the film with the president of Belarus, Gary Oldman at his most sinister and savage (interesting that they chose the president of Belarus who, for a long time, has exercised rather despotic power in this country). The president interrogates a rebel professor and murders his children. We see that later he is on trial at the International Court in the Hague.
Then, at last, the appearance of the hitman. He is played with considerable zest by Samuel L. Jackson, who is being called by Interpol as a witness against the president of Belarus and has to be transported from Manchester to the Hague via Amsterdam.
Incidentally, the variety of European locations, especially the cities, offers many an opportunity for audiences to enjoy the touristic aspects of the cities – and, especially towards the end, the most elaborate chase through the streets and canals of Amsterdam and then through the streets of The Hague. They are very adrenaline-pumping!
Needless to say, the Belarus president has his contacts, thugs roaming England and the Netherlands, and a traitor within Interpol who is revealed almost immediately so that we can see his machinations, the ambush to kill the hitman, continually tracking him throughout the countryside, with lots of shootouts and explosions.
Actually, the film plays like a variation on the odd couple, the hitman, Darius, not worried about rules, regulations, not waiting for Michael to do his planning, consider the logical best, require the wearing of seatbelt… And they have arguments along these lines, working off each other, and Darius obviously enjoying himself, singing at various times, including getting a lift in a van full of singing nuns!
And there is romance. There are quite number of flashbacks explaining Darius and Michael, especially their stories of falling in love. Darius has married Sonia, Salma Hayek, who worked in a Mexico City bar, more than tough, fighting recalcitrant customers – and all of this shown with Lionel Richie singing romantically in the background. There is a similar treatment of Michael falling in love with the French Interpol officer, Amelia (Elodie Yung).
There is split-second timing at the end, loads of gunmen trying to prevent Michael and Darius getting to the court, the defence counsel telling the judge that the time had passed but, with only a few seconds to spare, Michael and Darius arrive.
Actually the film doesn’t end there, there is a whole lot more action including a helicopter and explosions.
One hopes that the writers will think up a nicely complex plot, some funny as well as serious situations and good lines for the sequel. It could be The Bodyguard’s Hitman, but, in fact, ironically, this is the climax of the film.
Yes, it has touches of the violent, and Salma Hayek and Samuel L. Jackson exploit what a prim American friend referred to as “cuss language”. So, perhaps something of a guilty pleasure.
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Review by the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting