They could have just let it slip quietly onto the streaming services, where it would die the lonely death it deserves. But no: They — the big They, our corporate-industrial-entertainment overlords — are smashing The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard into cinemas, and only into cinemas. If this were an insidious plan to make you reconsider your love of Going To The Movies, to convince you that maybe watching movies at home wasn’t all that bad after all, They couldn’t have done a better job of it.
Corollary: They — the big They, our corporate-industrial-entertainment overlords — make more money when we pay $19.99 to stream a film at home, cuz they don’t have to split the takings with the multiplexes. (This is especially a bonus for modestly budgeted movies like this one, which do not need to rake in global billions to turn a tidy profit.)
Which is to say: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is a movie to turn you off Going To The Movies, with its unlikeable characters, its muddled action, and its incomprehensible plot, all of which are magnified on the big screen, with your attention honor bound by public decorum not to wander off to make a cup of tea or check your email. This is an unpleasant assault on the senses in which you cannot figure out what is happening, in either the grand sense or moment to moment; why it is happening; or why you should care about any of it. And the movie would appear to consider all of these things among its virtues (of which there are, in fact, almost none).
You see, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is nothing if not intent on doubling down on the unintelligible idiocy of 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard. If that first movie was lazily, perhaps even accidentally stupid, the stupidity here seems deliberate, an outright attack on the moviegoer. Oh, was hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson: Avengers: Endgame, Glass) clearly in no need of a bodyguard, and even if he was, he would not be even remotely helped by a clumsy, delusional loser of a bodyguard like Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds: Hobbs & Shaw, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu)? Fine. This time around, not only does Kincaid’s wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek: Like a Boss, Muppets Most Wanted), have absolutely no need of any bodyguard in general or Bryce in particular, she is not even in the market for a bodyguard. Sure, she needs — or thinks she needs — Bryce along to rescue Darius, who requires rescuing because of Reasons. But even she should have seen from the moment she rounded Bryce up that she would have been better off on her own.
Whatever tiny — and I do mean minuscule — sort of genre progressiveness might be found in the notion of a woman having to rescue her man is enormously overshadowed by the tremendous brainlessness of this pathetic excuse for an action comedy. (Not even the pure id-fuelled joy that is Salma Hayek here can make this work.) The ineptitude of returning director Patrick Hughes (The Expendables 3) makes Michael look like the height of cool, competent professionalism by contrast. Even if you, the audience in search of pure dumb escapism, are content with some big, loud car crashes and gun battles — and there’s nothing wrong with that if it floats your boat — it’s tough to imagine you being satisfied with Hughes’s disordered jumble of… stuff… thrown up onto the screen.
Look: Well-made cinematic action is like a ballet. It finds beauty in chaos, significance in violence. It makes you understand why its brutality is necessary, even if only in the minds of the protagonists. It grounds savagery in human experience, in human need, even if sometimes to the despair of a pacifist lefty like me, who would like to think that we monkey meatbags might finally be able to dispense with such animal ferocity. But what we get here is like a child tossing Legos around the room in frustration at not being able to build something coherent, something that looks somewhat like a house or a truck or, ahem, a movie. And yet, bizarrely, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard expects us to actually enjoy stepping on all those sharp-edged Legos strewn about the room.
The plot, such as it is, is incredibly dated, and incredibly nonsensical: something about Antonio Banderas (Finding Altamira, The 33), the most Spanish actor to grace our screens in decades, as, somehow, a Greek megalomaniac intent on getting revenge, via a bit of digital terrorism, on the EU for its economic squeeze on that small nation. That might have felt a little bit fresh five years ago, but now, not so much. And please do not ask how a hitman and his con-artist wife and their why-is-he-their-bodyguard bodyguard get caught up in this. It’s yet another doubling-down on the idiocy of the first movie’s woeful misunderstanding of what Interpol is and what it does. (The less said about poor Frank Grillo [The Purge: Election Year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier] as an Interpol agent — which is a thing that does not exist as depicted here — the better.)
Also outlandishly out of all sense of how humans understand time and biology: the running joke about a 55-year-old woman (Hayek) and a 73-year-old man (Jackson) trying to get pregnant the old-fashioned way. I mean, Hayek is sexy as fuck, is an outright smack in the face to our misogynist notions of what Women Of A Certain Age look like, but even she is infinitely more likely to be enduring menopausal hot flashes than worrying about — or hopeful about — getting pregnant at her age. Forget about the progressiveness of rescuing her man (who is old enough to be her father *grrr*): the progressiveness of acknowledging that a 50something woman can be hot as hell and also down to have hot, sweaty sex without worrying about getting pregnant would have been amazing to see onscreen.
Men wrote this movie, of course: Tom O’Connor, Brandon Murphy, and Phillip Murphy. But unless they are complete naifs, they should have recognized that there is no universe in which the Kincaids’ relationship could possibly be played the way it is here, as “funny” only because sociopaths shouldn’t be parents, and not because there is no way in human reality that these people even could become biological parents. There is enormous comedic potential in these two particular characters, played by these two particular actors, trying to get pregnant, but it’s much more overtly farcical than what we get here. It would require smart screenwriting the likes of which are nowhere near the crude realm of what we get here.
The incredible witlessness of this movie knows no bounds. Wife reups its predecessor’s terrible, unfunny jokes — it’s not a busload of nuns here, it’s a boatload of ’em — and its predecessor’s shameless references: the score evokes Danny Elfman’s brilliant Midnight Run score again, which remains a really bad choice. (1988’s Midnight Run has yet to be equalled in the reluctant-buddy-action-comedy subgenre, and I implore you to check it out — for the first time, or the hundredth time, as I am driven to do — in order to understand how this is done.) Doubling down on stupidity is not the font of humor The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard seems to think it is.