Though technically a worse film than the original, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard rides its low-brow wave to lizard brain delights.
2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard proved a bit of a sleeper hit, reconfiguring a Midnight Run-ish classic buddy caper picture as straight-up EuropaCorp-style trash, complete with copious Eastern European locales, meaty violence, low moral standards, and Gary Oldman picking up a paycheck. It coasted largely on the strength of Ryan Reynolds and Sam Jackson, who exhibited some genuine chemistry, and the sturdy (if a little too cut-happy) action direction of Patrick Hughes. Most of that stuff is back in The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, a largely misbegotten sequel that is nonetheless ridiculously entertaining if — and it’s a big if — one has a high tolerance for obnoxious, adolescent trash.
Jackson and Reynolds return to continue shouting at and insulting each other, but, as the title suggests, Salma Hayek is also back as Jackson’s character’s wife, herself an extremely (extremely) foul-mouthed con-woman who hijacks the movie anytime she’s on screen with some truly nasty talk. The indecipherable plot centers on a James Bond-style villain, the Greek tycoon Aristotle Papadopolous (Antonio Banderas), who uses some sort of absurd super-drill to sabotage the EU’s economy. Honestly, and this is mere speculation, but it seems engineered purely as an excuse to get Banderas back on screen with Hayek, which as surface-level pleasures go can’t really be denied. Also on board are Frank Grillo in a thankless role as a rogue American agent and Morgan Freeman as [SPOILER REDACTED].
Hughes’ direction has become a bit more hyperactive since the last outing, with even more handheld and cutting, but his geography remains relatively legible for this day and age, and there are generous helpings of lumpy, bloody squibs, gooey headshots, cars flipping all over the place, and explosions. In fact, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’s greatest asset is its pace, which barely slows down for even a single scene. Even the endless exposition tends to be delivered while something is blowing up or getting shot at, and when that’s not happening, there are two or sometimes three people cracking sophomoric jokes or swearing at each other. This leans into alleged “comedy” a bit more than its predecessor, at the expense of a sturdier script or tighter action. Meaner, louder, shorter, and sillier than the first one, it’s a sequel that seems to have deliberately jettisoned the simple charms of its predecessor in favor of more of the deliberately toxic unpleasantness its ostensible audience of teenage boys craves. Technically this is a worse movie, but it hits a target of being spiteful junk food for lizard brains that’s rarely aimed for these days outside of the oeuvre of Michael Bay.