Bodyguard Michael Bryce one more teams up with hitman Darius Kincaid, this time to rescue Darius’s wife Sonia.
With more motherfuckers than the Tory cabinet, this is not a film for the faint of heart, though the faint of hearing may find themselves counting their blessings.
For most of its running time The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard suffers from ill though-out comedy sequelitis. It’s often dull and witless, a vastly inferior sequel to the silly but funny original. I can’t even put it down to rose-tinted memories of cinema trips pre-COVID, as I saw 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard for the first time the day before I saw this. Many of the jokes are just repeated from the first film, but louder. Luckily it improves near the end, if you can wait that long.
The villain — a fiercely patriotic Greek millionaire Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas), who holds the EU to ransom when they threaten his country with economic sanctions — is neither daft enough nor horrific enough. The movie also has none of the personal horror of the first, where we had, even if only briefly, met and connected with a dissident who saw his wife and child killed by Gary Oldman’s Belorussian dictator.
Either go for textbook evil dictators, or comic book cat-loving scoundrels with a giant nuclear weapon and a massive red button that says “Launch”! Or just get Sonia to shriek MOTHERFUCKER! at top volume, bursting everyone’s eardrums “from Lake Geneva to the Finland Station”, as the Pet Shop Boys might have put it.
Aristotle is planning to introduce a virus into a European data junction, which will then spread around the network, exploding as it goes and killing vast numbers of people. I think! The demonstration, by the crook selling the virus technology to Aristotle, sees a chain of explosions across Zagreb, their unwitting test area.
It doesn’t entirely make sense, even in an outlandish comedy thriller way; and let’s face it data junctions aren’t that exciting. Neither is the EU, much as I’d love my country to be an official part of it once more.
I do still like Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), the risk-averse personal protection officer. In fact I like all three main characters; and any middle aged woman on screen, channelling her 40+ hormonal rage into murder and mayhem, is to be applauded: do it for all of us permimenopausal old bints, Salma/Sonja. (Hayek is, despite her character’s irritating shrieking, the best thing in this.) Sonia and Darius’s relationship is enviable, considering it’s between a long-jailed hitman and a conwoman (their legally enforced separations probably account for its longevity and success).
Michael (Jnr, as we later discover) still hasn’t got over losing his AAA rating for failing to protect his client Mr Kurosawa from the assassin’s bullet in the first film (a bullet fired by Darius). He’s supposed to be going in front of a tribunal to argue for its return; in the meantime even his therapist (Rebecca Front) is bored rigid by him, announcing he’s graduated therapy and sending him abroad to find himself. Swearing off guns and killing people, Michael heads to Capri on sabbatical, where his search for “Future Michael” is thrown into turmoil when he’s accosted by Sonia Kincaid (Hayek) in the middle of a gun battle.
Sonia — whose gun I can only assume is activated by a high-pitched MOTHERFUCKER! — needs Bryce to free her husband who has been kidnapped by the Mafia. Darius (Samuel L Jackson) has apparently asked for Bryce by name, something which astounds him.
They do free Darius, but in the melée they also kill Carlos, one of Interpol’s key informers, who was about to travel to Portofino to buy the hard drive with the attack location coordinates for Aristotle. So with Sonia playing Carlos’s mistress and Bryce her bodyguard, they’re sent undercover to Portofino by Interpol agent Bobby O’Neill (Frank Grillo) to do it themselves.
Much of the rest of the film is a bit of a blur of kidnappings, escapes and chases. There’s a newly uncovered connection between Sonia and Aristotle and a messy escape from his lair. Morgan Freeman pops up as “the greatest bodyguard who ever lived”, and we also find out something of Michael’s sad childhood: how he lost his mum, gained a dad, and is terrified of ice cream.
The “safety first” joke rumbles on, as does Hello by Lionel Ritchie whenever Darius and Sonia are reunited; actual gags are thin on the ground, though l did like “he’s a hitman shooting blanks” about a killer with fertility problems.
The locations are stunning, the chases okay — but overall it’s lacklustre, one of those films that leaves you itching for a little bit more of everything to give it some oomph. The leads valiantly give it their best shot, but even these three hugely talented and experienced stalwarts can barely hold up the shaky edifice.
And then, with 20 minutes to go, the oomph most definitely arrives. As Darius and Michael are in pursuit of Aristotle and his giant data junction drill, the pace picks up, the action ratchets several gears, and the jokes (both visual and verbal) improve.
Is it enough to save the film, or my score? No, though I’d have given it another star if, in a nod to middle-aged Brits, they’d called it The Hitman’s Bodyguard And Her.
Note: There is a mid-credits scene, which is batshit yet also rather sweet, and totally in keeping with Sonia’s kind heart.
Read my article The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard: It’s All About Family including the ending (and mid-credits scene)
Watch the trailer now: