There’s an extended version and a moviehouse version of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. I watched the longer one, which seemed padded by about 15 minutes, which is exactly the amount of time that the extended version has been extended by. So if you’re after a more concentrated hit of action comedy – or don’t have long left to live…
If you really don’t have long left to live, and feel the need for knockabout fun, you don’t need to waste time by watching the first film in order to enjoy this second one. That was a poacher-versus-gamekeeper tale – a hitman (Samuel L Jackson in “motherfucker” mode), an over-cautious bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds in quippy Deadpool mode) and the hitman’s wife (Salma Hayek), all spun through various comic-book life-threatening situations, Darius Kincaid (Jackson) and Michael Bryce (Reynolds) amusingly not seeing eye to eye, while Hayek’s Sonia Kincaid alternately made jokes about her breasts or tried to straddle her screen husband.
Like Red 2, the film about superannuated spies, this is a better film than the original. It’s funnier, faster paced (ignoring the extra 15 mins of the extended cut), gives more screen time to the “batshit crazy” Sonia and generally lets its stars get on and do more of their thing, as Red 2 did. There are many jokes about the characters’ age, and with a subplot about Sonia and Darius trying to have a baby, there needs to be, since at the first mention of the idea you’re likely to think, “Hang on a second, how old is Salma Hayek exactly?” Answer: 55 when this was made. And I’ll have what she’s having.
This is the sort of film that doesn’t have one evil gang boss driving the action but several – including a thrown away (again) Gary Oldman – but over all of them is the superbad megalomaniac mastermind Antonio Banderas as a Greek shipping magnate who has been driven to despicable dastardliness by the latest actions of the European Union against his country, “the cradle of civilisation”. He’s your crypto-gay loquacious Bond-villain style of bad guy who loves a flounce and a flick of the hair – “like Liberace banged a set of curtains,” as Bryce puts it when he first claps eyes on him.
Don’t worry about the EU reference. There is no real political content once the setup has been set up and the wagon’s begun to roll. It’s James Bond/Fast & Furious action set pieces plus quips, mostly handled with skill by director Patrick Hughes and with lots of funny gags by writer Tom O’Connor, who’s more sure-footed on spoof thriller territory than handling the real thing (see The Courier, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, a fairly pedestrian spy drama, which he also wrote).
There is absolutely no need to follow the plot. And because the sunny, tourist-brochure locations are fabulous – much of it was shot in Croatia, but it’s Italy (Portofino, Capri, Florence) that’s more obviously up in the mix – you could watch it almost as a travelogue.
As well as an almost dismissively used Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman is in it, for a few minutes. So is Richard E Grant, for a funny few seconds. Frank Grillo gets enough space to be large as one of those angry testosterone-filled cops working for Interpol and really wishing he could be back home, or have a SWAT team and choppers to enhance his own prestige. He catches the mood of the almost insane self-love of the other characters perfectly, slots right in and, really, I was wishing that the extra 15 minutes in the extended version were an extra 15 minutes of Grillo. I don’t think they were.
A Mercedes van ker-chunks down a flight of street stairs. Tina Turner turns up on the soundtrack singing Simply the Best. There’s a replay of that car-radio joke from Deadpool, except this time it’s a jukebox that changes song every time a head is whapped into it. Banderas gets to say, “Find the fugitives. Kill them.” There is a slo-mo explosion sequence with people fleeing ahead of the fireball. I’m telling you these things but you already know they happen because that’s the sort of film this is. Saturday night sorted.
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© Steve Morrissey 2021