By Michael Wastell
The buddy cop genre has a long and varied history, ranging from Lethal Weapon to Let’s Be Cops. The latest addition is The Hitman’s Bodyguard, directed by Patrick Hughes and co-starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.
Gary Oldman plays Vladislav Dukhovich (think Air Force One), whose trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague requires the testimony of international hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). After the Interpol team escorting him from Manchester to Holland is ambushed and compromised, in steps Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) to take over as the titular hitman’s bodyguard.
The film is slow to start, and after the first 20 minutes you’re left wondering if they’ve stuffed up a good concept. Thankfully, once Jackson and Reynolds hit the road, the film picks up and stays consistently exciting and funny. As per usual in an odd couple movie, the importance of chemistry between the two leads is paramount. This is where The Hitman’s Bodyguard delivers, as Reynolds and Jackson play wonderfully off one another. Jackson’s freewheeling improvisational Kincaid is constantly rubbing Reynolds’ safety conscious Bryce the wrong way. Of course, the two eventually grow to share a begrudging respect for one another, as they do their best to avoid being killed by Dukhovich’s various henchmen.
The fact that both actors are basically playing variations on their well developed screen personas allows the film to skip the usual ‘character development’ in favour of a steady stream of funny exchanges between action sequences. Australian director Patrick Hughes makes refreshingly light use of computer graphics – with the exception of some clunky explosions – in favour of practical stunts and effects. A chase sequence through the streets and canals of Amsterdam is gleefully destructive and brings to mind the classic action films of the 80’s and 90’s. Hughes also brings some Australian-ness to the soundtrack, using Spiderbait’s cover of Black Betty to score a chase, while having Melbourne based composer Dmitri Golovko score the Amsterdam chase.
The film’s moderate success at the box office lends the potential for a sequel. That might not be such a bad thing, as good chemistry between leads and well staged set pieces are becoming increasingly rare in action cinema. It’d be a shame to waste them.