The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek and Samuel L Jackson

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.

Darius and Michael
Downtime: Darius and Michael



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.



The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2021









Frida

Salma Hayek and Ashley Judd in Frida

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

31 January

 

 

Leon Trotsky exiled, 1929

On this day in 1929, Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, aka Leon Trotsky, was exiled from the country he had helped create. A member of the victorious Bolsheviks in the revolution of 1917 (having earlier switched allegiance from the Mensheviks), Trotsky rose quickly through the party, proving himself decisively in the civil war against the Mensheviks in 1918. Ideologically he was loosely aligned with Lenin, believed in mass democracy, permanent revolution and internationalism and was opposed to the “socialism in one country” of Stalin. Trotsky found his ideas and those of the Left Opposition increasingly marginalised in the USSR and was also out-manoeuvred by the far wilier Stalin, who would make piecemeal alliances with whoever was most useful to him on the way to the top. Though one of the first members of the ruling Politburo, the head of the Red Army and Lenin’s heir presumptive, Trotsky was nudged aside when Lenin died in 1924, though he remained a public figure long after he had lost political force inside the leadership. By 1927 he had been formally removed from power. And in 1929 he was deported, heading first for Turkey, then France, then Norway, then finally Mexico, where he wrote The Revolution Betrayed, in which he railed against the “degenerated workers’ state” run by an undemocratic bureaucracy which, he prophesied, would eventually be either overthrown by a political revolution or would turn into a capitalist class. In the light of 1989 and the rise of the oligarchs he seems to have been right on both accounts. On 20 August 1940, having survived an assassination attempt earlier in the year, Trotsky was attacked with an ice axe by a USSR agent. He died the next day.

 

 

 

Frida (2002, dir: Julie Taymor)

The role that Mexican Salma Hayek was probably born to play, that of Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), she of the vivid paintings, the affairs with fellow artist Diego Rivera and exiled revolutionary Leon Trotsky, the bisexuality, the drug abuse and the infamous unibrow. Director Julie Taymor finds a way of locking all that together without going too low on one knee, and without bogging down in too much detail, in a film that looks very much like a labour of love for Taymor, though it obviously was one for Hayek too – years of lobbying, wads of her own money. The casting is the thing in this one: Hayek not only looks the part, she’s also a Mexican and unafraid to speak her mind, like Kahlo. But gaze too upon Alfred Molina as Rivera, a big tousled bear of a man brimming over with life and optimism. Geoffrey Rush as Trotsky. Even Edward Norton as Nelson Rockefeller. Reminding us that she’d been a roaring success with her counter-intuitive (masks, puppets) directing of The Lion King on Broadway, Taymor sprinkles a bit of magical realism here and there – such as when Kahlo has the terrible bus accident that broke her back, pelvis, ribs and collarbone and impaled her on an iron handrail, which pierced her womb. Some things don’t need spelling out too clearly. Cinema’s approach to the life of the artist is always a fraught affair. Why talk about the person at all if the art is the thing? And though the worked and reworked script does bog down in explication, seems hung up on the domestic arrangements of Kahlo and Rivera, and is shy of examining Kahlo’s motivations, Taymor makes up for it in the visuals. Why look for text when you can have image?

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • The classic Salma Hayek role
  • Director Julie Taymor’s fabulous command of imagery
  • Imagine Madonna in the lead – it nearly happened
  • The under-rated Molina – another great performance

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Frida – at Amazon