It’s the primary query on all people’s minds as summer time blockbuster season kicks into gear: Why is a sequel to The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the expediently titled The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, occupying a primary June launch date with nearly no competitors? Actually, that’s the second query; the primary is “what was The Hitman’s Bodyguard again?”
Even if one remembers that it was an motion comedy whereby a disgraced, wisecracking-but-uptight bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) should shield an even-more-wisecracking murderer (Samuel L. Jackson) from different (non-wisecracking) assassins, the particulars past that will not spring to thoughts. It definitely looks like one of many much less auspicious pre-pandemic motion pictures to occupy the primary spot on the field workplace for 3 weekends in a row, but that’s precisely what it did, again in 2017. (I needed to look this up; flouting my usually savant-like recall of film launch dates, I’d have believed that this explicit movie got here out almost any 12 months of the previous decade.) At some level throughout that run, I paid to see it. It evaporated from reminiscence virtually immediately.
Perhaps seeing it in a theater was a mistake. It’s at the moment streaming nearer to its pure habitat, on TNT, TBS, and TruTV apps—the form of companies you want a cable login to entry, as a result of that is precisely the form of film that turns into a weekend-cable mainstay, even within the streaming period. By this customary, it’s nonetheless not an excellent film; it’s no Jack Reacher, no John Wick. (A film named after Reynolds’ character, Michael Bryce, wouldn’t have the identical ring, although Jackson’s character does sport the extraordinarily movie-sounding moniker Darius Kincaid.) But revisiting The Hitman’s Bodyguard alongside its noisier, significantly extra ridiculous follow-up does make clear its attraction.
In reality, plenty of the primary film’s attraction comes instantly from the truth that it makes no try and serialize or develop its story. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson have each performed a plethora of comic-book and franchise motion pictures, but their instantaneous familiarity in The Hitman’s Bodyguard doesn’t depend upon remembering the place and after we final left Nick Fury (or whether or not he was really Nick Fury, or a Skrull pretending to be Nick Fury), or recalling whether or not Deadpool will proceed to vex the X-Men universe or make his solution to the MCU. It performs the old school assumption that the viewers is aware of and understands free-floating star personas: that Reynolds will probably be a slapstick-prone wiseass, that Jackson will cackle and swear. Its secondary roles additionally commerce on that form of familiarity: Salma Hayek performs a spitfire, Gary Oldman performs a nasty man.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard makes use of that familiarity to start out with most effectivity: In its first seven minutes, the film establishes the Reynolds character, his lofty place as a high-level bodyguard, the incident that brings him low, the abilities he maintains regardless of his diminished popularity, and his weary, bottomed-out frame of mind. The dynamic between Reynolds and Jackson falls into place with comparable pace. It’s not an unique, attention-grabbing, or insightful dynamic—Reynolds is the uptight one, whereas Jackson is the freewheeling pressure of nature; they each swear loads—nevertheless it certain is simple to grasp.
In this context, it doesn’t a lot matter that Reynolds and Jackson will not be particularly sturdy motion performers, going by the motions of not particularly impressed shoot-outs and chases. Their gravity doesn’t come from their collective historical past of on-screen combat sequences: Deadpool does plenty of his stunts by way of pc (and can be the primary to level this out) and Mace Windu isn’t as almost athletic because the pasty Obi-wan Kenobi. Reynolds and Jackson appear midway credible as motion stars due to the star half: Jackson’s inimitably echoing voice and iconic glare; the best way Reynolds can seem concurrently aghast and indifferent. They can lend a film like this an instantaneous readability. No one dropping into The Hitman’s Bodyguard chilly on the 47-minute mark will probably be confused about who’s attempting to kill who.
The sequel, opening in theaters this week, flips to a distinct cable channel, prefer it desires to be in heavy Comedy Central rotation quite than TBS or TNT. Sequelizing a lazy cable/airplane/hotel-room watch does have its benefits; even viewers with a fond recollection of the primary movie might not instantly notice simply what number of of its jokes and references are straight up repeated in the second, often with the quantity jacked means up, distorting a rote buddy-action film into self-parody. Despite their nominal character journey from the primary movie, the Jackson and Reynolds personas revert to an amped model of their outdated dynamic: Reynolds is fussier and extra neurotic than ever, whereas Jackson’s devil-may-care perspective has curdled into outright hostility. Hayek, whose function is expanded to co-lead this time round, additionally goes larger, although there’s a demented allure to the best way her character alternates obscenity-laced tirades with motherly considerations, as she and Jackson share a weird (and, sure, typically amusing) conviction that they need to begin a household.
When Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard trots out Hayek’s Desperado co-star Antonio Banderas and ol’ dependable Morgan Freeman, it turns into clearer than ever that Patrick Hughes is drawing on his expertise with the Expendables technique: When unsure, add a well-known face. (Hughes directed The Expendables 3, which additionally used Banderas as an added-value aspect.) With fewer large, theatrically launched motion pictures performing as star-power supply programs, the occasional Hitman’s Bodyguard kind of film serves as a star clearinghouse. It’s paying homage to the 2010 action-comedy Red, whose premise is much more Expendables-esque (one thing about outdated individuals getting their weapons again out?), and supplied an identical roll name of recognized portions: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Richard Drefyuss, and, after all, Freeman.
Red additionally impressed a follow-up (Red 2!!), dutifully including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins (their Mask of Zorro co-star Banderas by some means went untapped), launched to what appeared like relative indifference. The similar destiny might await Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. After all, the what-the-hell, sounds-like-a-movie vibe of the primary movie would most likely be best to recreate by making a brand new film, quite than a redundant-feeling sequel. Streaming additionally makes it clear simply what number of higher methods there are to see these stars than both Hitman’s Bodyguard film. Desperado is at the moment streaming on HBO Max. Mississippi Grind, a extra grounded film about male friendship that includes the most effective Ryan Reynolds performances, is free for Amazon Prime subscribers. There’s most likely a greater Samuel L. Jackson film on tv proper this instantaneous. But some will most likely take consolation within the mere existence of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard anyway, whether or not it’s now or when its viewers actually wants it: on a airplane, on Netflix in eight months, or on TNT in two and a half years. Even a hole reminder of a sure kind of film remains to be a reminder.
Jesse Hassenger is a author dwelling in Brooklyn. He’s an everyday contributor to The A.V. Club, Polygon, and The Week, amongst others. He podcasts at www.sportsalcohol.com and tweets dumb jokes at @rockmarooned.