‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ is the dumb fun theaters need

See this one with an audience, if you can

Brad Keefe
"The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard"

I’ll start off with a disclaimer: This movie is probably not as good as I’m going to make it sound.

I’ve been screening movies mostly from home for more than a year. And since then I’ve attended a few press screenings in an audience limited to a handful of colleagues.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was the first movie I’ve attended with anything close to a normal audience, though the theater was still limited to roughly half-capacity. I’d forgotten how important audience reaction is to the theater experience. When you’re in a room full of people having fun, it’s hard not to join them.

The movie is a sequel to 2017’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” which is so forgettable I literally forgot I had seen it. No matter, because this kind of silly action-comedy isn’t meant to be thought about too hard. 

Elite bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) has lost his “AAA” certification after the events of the first movie, in which he was an unlikely bodyguard for Samuel L. Jackson’s hitman, Darius Kincaid. Michael is working through his withdrawal with an exasperated therapist who tells him he’s “graduated therapy” and should regroup away from the violence of his former life.

But when Darius’ wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), makes a hyper-violent entrance, Michael is recruited to rescue her kidnapped husband. Almost immediately, the pair rescues Darius — quickly falling into and out of peril is a recurring theme here — at which point the trio unexpectedly must team up to stop a terrorist threat.

The plot of “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is almost a parody, piling on action and comedy sequences made for audiences with no attention span. But after a year inside, this kind of dumb, fun crowd-pleaser hits a little different.

Director Patrick Hughes, returning from the earlier film, doesn’t reinvent the wheel. He just blows it up again and again. Thankfully, the sequel generally stays away from the kind of Michael Bay self-seriousness that can weigh down a movie like this. It’s more slapstick farce with some physical gags straight out of Looney Toons.

Obviously, this same material would absolutely flop with a less charming cast, but Reynolds and Jackson build on the comedic tension displayed in the first film. This is like a buddy comedy where the two protagonists hate each other.

However, it’s Hayek who is having the most fun here, getting to flesh out her supporting character from the first movie into a full partner. The fact that Hayek easily has the best unhinged profanity in a movie with Samuel L. Jackson is saying something.

There’s also a comically over-the-top villain played by Antonio Banderas and … another name actor whose appearance would have been better served as an unbilled surprise.

This very R-rated medley of violence and ridiculously crass and vulgar humor scratches an action-comedy mix if you’re on its wavelength. The plot is best left to just rolling with, there only to serve up the gags.

Would I have had as many laughs if I wasn’t staring at a massive IMAX screen surrounded by people having a genuinely good time? Absolutely not. But give this one that theatrical experience bump. I can’t deny I mostly had a blast.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’

Now playing in theaters

3 stars out of 5