At once reassuringly familiar — even starchy — and yet oddly unsatisfying, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is meat-and-potatoes moviemaking at its most fungible. Co-starring Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce, a disgraced security expert seeking redemption, and Samuel L. Jackson as his nemesis-turned-client Darius Kincaid — a murderer-for-hire Michael must reluctantly protect while Darius prepares to testify against a Belarusian dictator accused of war crimes (Gary Oldman) — the comic action/buddy flick serves up an undistinguished bill of fare.
For plot, there’s a bloody yet hard-to-swallow cut of subprime red meat: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is gratuitously violent and preposterous. For acting, there’s not one but two cheese-stuffed baked potatoes on the plate, with Jackson and Reynolds vying for the audience’s attention. In place of fresh, crisp dialogue, there’s a wilted word salad of vulgar repartee, the most common utterance of which — this being a Samuel L. Jackson film — is unprintable.
At other times, Darius’ put-downs are simply head-scratching: “I’ve eaten hamburgers that know more about women than you,” he tells Michael, during one of several man-to-man talks about woman troubles that they manage to squeeze in between escapades eluding assassins on the way to The Hague’s International Criminal Court.
To be sure, there is always a certain pleasure in watching Jackson do his thing: Glare, grin and then unload with a mouthful of invective, followed by a can of whup-ass. The same does not apply to Salma Hayek, who plays Dariuss foulmouthed convict wife, Sonia. Promised release from prison if Darius agrees to help put Oldman’s Vladislav Dukhovich behind bars, Sonia has little to do except curse loudly and in Spanish (yet not especially colorfully, according to the subtitles). Darius says he loves her, just as Michael says he loves Amelia (Elodie Yung), an Interpol officer with whom he shares a complicated backstory. Yet this is no rom-com. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is all bromance.
Some folks like to take a nap after a big meal. If it weren’t for all the fireballs and f-bombs, you might even be able to get some shut-eye while you’re watching “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”