Like mirrored sunglasses and beer koozies, the brainless summer entertainment is a warm-weather staple. But the act of not thinking is its own act of consciousness. We all have only a finite amount of time to waste, not just through a summer but throughout our lifetimes. Do you really want to fritter away your hard-earned time-wasting currency on The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard?
The Hitman’s Bodyguard, directed by Patrick Hughes and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds as, respectively, a bad-ass hit man and the has-been bodyguard assigned to protect him, was a 2017 summer hit, the kind of movie you shuffle into when you need to get away from the heat, your spouse, your day-to-day woes. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is more of the same—yet less. Reynolds and Jackson return: Reynolds’ anxiety-riddled deadpan goofball Michael Bryce is still disgraced, having failed to protect an important client—it was Darius Kincaid (Jackson) himself who ostensibly caused the man’s death. On the advice of his therapist, Bryce has opted to take a holiday, hoping to make peace with his new, not-a-bodyguard self. (When his therapist, after several tries, finally suggests a vacation spot to his liking, his face turns radiant: “Capri—like the pants!”) But before he’s had time to settle by the water with a copy of The Secret, Darius’s con-artist wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), shows up out of nowhere, guns—and cleavage—blazing. Darius needs Bryce’s help, and he’s sent her to fetch him. She won’t take no for an answer.
This alone could be the preamble to an adequate brainless action comedy. But what follows is so dispiritingly bad that, rather than providing the salutary effects of recharging your tired brain, it saps your will to live. The villain this time around is a disgruntled Greek magnate named Aristotle Papadopolous—played by Antonio Banderas, in an array of brocade jackets that enliven the proceedings at least slightly—who’s angry at the rest of Europe and wants to show it who’s boss. The excessively cluttered plot also involves manipulative INTERPOL agents and Morgan Freeman, who shows up, allegedly hilariously, as Bryce’s star-bodyguard dad, now ostensibly retired to a villa in Tuscany.
Meanwhile, cars chase each other really fast through the meandering streets of Italian medieval towns, and many, many people get blammed with bullets. This is what you came here for, right? Add Reynold’s naiflike “who me?” mien and Jackson’s trademark pantomime of hostile impatience, and it should all add up to something that’s at least sufficient. There’s also Hayek, a firecracker presence, who’s usually great fun to watch: she has a spectacular sense of humor about herself, which is the sexiest thing in the universe.
But in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard—written, if you call this writing, by Tom O’Connor, Brandon Murphy and Phillip Murphy, based on characters created by O’Connor—is hung up on an exhausting subplot involving Sonia and Darius’s desire to conceive a child. Darius feels shame and embarrassment—the fault, he’s convinced, lies with his own faulty testicle. Meanwhile Sonia chatters on, in fractured English, about the perceived inadequacy of her own vagina. If anyone could make this dismal stuff funny, it’s Hayek—but not even she can rescue it.
Sometimes a dumb action comedy can work perfectly well as a one-off, particularly if its writers and director can pull off the illusion that they didn’t have to work hard to earn our laughs. But The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is all work and no payday. Even in the service of airheaded entertainment, no one should feel compelled to take a bullet for it. It’s OK to let a franchise die.