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Comic chemistry strains to carry violent, predictable 'Hitman's Bodyguard'
Gary Oldman as Vladislav Dukhovich in The Hitman's Bodyguard." - photo by Josh Terry
THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD 2 stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Elodie Yung; R (strong violence and language throughout); in general release

The Hitmans Bodyguard brings Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson together in a manic buddy comedy that is heavy on action if a little light and predictable on plot. Its good, but it feels as if it could have been better.

Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a down-and-out bodyguard who was at the top of the personal-protection world until an unknown assassin took out one of his high-priced clients.

Jackson plays Darius Kincaid, a legendary incarcerated hit man who has been offered a deal to come to the Hague and testify against the human rights violations of an Eastern European dictator named Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Kincaids track record is too bloody to be expunged, but if he cooperates, Interpol has agreed to free his also-imprisoned wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek).

Bryce and Kincaid join forces when a team of Dukhovichs goons attack Kincaids protective convoy, which includes Bryces Interpol-agent ex-girlfriend, Amelia (Elodie Yung, who plays Elektra in Netflixs Daredevil series). Kincaid and Amelia manage to escape the bloodbath and, in desperation, she calls in her ex-boyfriend to deliver Kincaid to the trial, promising to restore his AAA bodyguard status if he cooperates.

Its a simple premise that succeeds largely on the chemistry of Reynolds and Jackson, whose manic dialed-to-11 behavior feels like Seinfelds Frank and Estelle Costanza outfitted with guns and combat training. Bryce and Kincaid have plenty of history and are at each others throats from the outset, united only as a matter of life-and-death necessity.

As you might expect, the Deadpool and Pulp Fiction stars put a lot of R-rated mileage on their odometers, and the one-note gag for Hayeks character is that shes every bit as foulmouthed as her husband. But the best comedy in Hitmans Bodyguard comes organically between Reynolds and Jackson, much more than when director Patrick Hughes relies on profanity to deliver his punchlines.

You would expect a Reynolds-Jackson combo to be heavy on profanity, but for a comedy, Hitmans Bodyguard is also surprisingly violent. Bryce and Kincaid blast their way through a seemingly limitless supply of Dukhovichs henchmen, complete with the expected gunfire and brutality, but other moments such as an early scene where Dukhovich executes a potential witness family mark strange tone changes that feel a step too far for the genre. Other scenes that try to humanize characters like Kincaid also feel odd in context as well.

Hughes really delivers on a sequence of escalating action sequences that match fantastic choreography, camera work and editing to create some genuine adrenaline-pumping exchanges. Combined with the chemistry between the two leads, the action sequences are enough to carry a film that weakens once you look beyond its highlights.

The plot surprises arent that surprising, and at 118 minutes, Hitmans Bodyguard feels a little too long. But fans of Reynolds and Jackson will probably be more than happy to see their favorite actors push each others buttons. Scaling back the more extreme R-rated content and maintaining a more consistent comic tone might have produced a smoother final product. The Hitmans Bodyguard isnt quite as good as it could have been, but for a mid-August release, sometimes good enough is the goal.

The Hitman's Bodybuard is rated R for strong violence and language throughout; running time: 118 minutes.
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