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









Snakes on a Plane

Samuel L Jackson in Snakes on a Plane

 

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

 

 

12 August

 

Cleopatra kills herself, 30BC

On this day in 30BC, Cleopatra VII Philopator, last pharaoh of ancient Egypt, killed herself. She was the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes and at first ruled alongside him, later ruling alongside her brothers Ptolemy XIII and XIV, the latter of whom she married. The Ptolemaic dynasty had its origins in Greece, the original Ptolemey having been one of Alexander the Great’s generals. The Ptolemaic era marked the decline of Greece and the ascent of Rome and one of Cleopatra’s strategic couplings was to have a son with Julius Caesar, who became co-ruler with her after her husband/brother Ptolemy mysteriously died of poisoning. Julius Caesar had met his end around the same time, so Cleopatra then aligned herself with Mark Antony, and bore him three children. But with Mark Antony she had chosen the losing side. Because in the struggle for a successor to Caesar, he lost out to Augustus (aka Octavian) and was defeated in battle at Actium. As a result Mark Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra followed her husband (who was incidentally already married to Octavian’s sister), clasping an asp to her bosom, as tradition has it. Her son, Caesarion, briefly tried to become pharaoh but was killed on Octavian’s orders. Egypt became a province of Rome.

 

 

 

Snakes on a Plane (2006, dir: David R Ellis)

Snakes on a Plane is a slightly bigger budgeted version of the sort of film that the SyFy channel churn out for buttons – Sharknado, Frankenfish, Dinocroc vs Supergator – where the accent is on fun and cheesy special effects are all part of the package. And if you’ve got a fading celebrity on board, then so much the better. No such thing here, though, since it’s Samuel L Jackson, very much still riding the wave that Quentin Tarantino got going with Pulp Fiction in 1994, who’s the main man here. He’s playing the badass cop taking a witness to a trial, a witness whose death in transit would be very much appreciated by the accused. Enter the snakes, and exit pretty much any remaining contact with reality. The set-up is borrowed entirely from 1970s disaster movies – we meet a bunch of people: the honeymooners, the uptight Brit, the mile-high couple, the kickboxers, the bimbo stewardesses, the gay steward. Some of them will make it, most of them won’t, and Samuel L will say “motherfuckin’” a hell of a lot.
There is no need to go into more plot than I’ve just laid out, with this film the title is the plot. In fact it’s almost the whole film, once the snakes get loose and start getting busy. One tiny detail – the snakes have been exposed to some gas which makes them extremely violent. “Well that’s good news… snakes on crack,” says Samuel L. Though Jackson looks like he’s doing his scenes in between shooting something else (he was making between five and ten films a year at this point, so it figures), his line readings are never less than brilliant – the notorious “Right, that’s it. I’ve had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane” being the motherlode, the line that got the internet jangling and sold the last few pre-bookings that hadn’t already been sold on the title alone.
The good news is that there is a tiny bit more going on, gratuitous sexual wounding, for example. One early victim gets a snake zonking straight onto her tit. A guy taking a leak gets one… yes, he does. More good news is that there isn’t a big message hiding in there somewhere, apart from the “if we all just pull together we might just beat this” which some overheated souls will see as socialism, but there’s not much anyone can do about that.
It’s dumb, it’s fun, you can half-watch and it still makes sense. Sometimes it’s exactly the sort of movie you want, when you’re tired, the pizza is really top notch and the beer is cold and you’re thirsty.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Samuel L Jackson – a tour de force
  • Dumb, but not stupid
  • Funny
  • All the right people die

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Snakes on a Plane – Watch it now at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Coach Carter

Samuel L Jackson in Coach Carter

 

 

“Inspirational coach” movies come in many shapes and sizes. This one comes in the shape of Samuel L. Jackson, the tough talking, clean-living paragon of virtue who comes into a troubled school and turns around the basketball team in the teeth of indifference from pupils, teachers and … sorry, am I boring you? There’s a little more to Coach Carter than the usual sports movie fare. To whit: it is based on the true story of the coach who insisted his players properly knuckle down. He made them sign contracts. Controversially, he also insisted they got good grades in their other classes otherwise they were off the team. And outrageously, he closed the team’s gym when a couple of his players broke the terms of their contract – to the ire of the players and the local community who couldn’t understand what the fuss about book learning was anyway. Those nuggety taste-explosions of plot aside, there’s not much to see here. Apart from Jackson himself, who produces enough electricity to keep this bag of clichés going… almost.

© Steve Morrissey 2006

 

Coach Carter – at Amazon

 

 

Deep Blue Sea

You're thinking "that HT box is seriously off codeSaffron Burrows in Deep Blue Sea

 

 

Not to be confused with high-tone The Deep Blue Sea, from 2011, this action thriller whose USP is “smart sharks” got a mixed reception when it came out, everyone suddenly having forgotten how many people have tried to follow in the wake of Jaws – and totally failed. Renny Harlin’s film succeeds, mostly, thanks to his understanding of action, his writer’s reliance on the old “someone’s been messing with nature” plot, of Godzilla vintage, and a better cast than these things often have (Michael Caine in Jaws: The Revenge being a rare exception). So we have Saffron Burrows as a scientist who’s been genetically modifying sharks in an attempt to find the cure for Alzheimer’s. These experiments have made the ravenous beasts even more fiendishly clever than they already were. It’s also given them an appetite for human sashimi, which they set out to satisfy by breaking out of their high-security pens and laying seige to the scientists’ living quarters next door. All this is going on, wouldn’t you just know it, on a hi-tech facility miles and miles out at sea. Granted, Deep Blue Sea isn’t as elemental as Jaws, but then it’s not as sentimental either. Nor is it likely to put you off swimming in the open sea for ever. Instead you get Saffron taking her clothes off because the script strictly demands it, plus Thomas Jane doing he-man heroics, Samuel L Jackson playing a charismatic megacorp boss and LL Cool J as an eccentric cook. Two black men in a who’s-going-to-get-it-next film? Just one of the deliberately tantalising elements of a film that manages to blindside the audience to yelping effect on at least a couple of occasions. Deep Blue Sea is a film really best seen on a big screen in a room full of warm mortals but even at home there’s plenty in it for lovers of squirm, ouch and splat.

© Steve Morrissey 2013

 

Deep Blue Sea – at Amazon