Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard Review: Bring In The Noise, Bring In The Junk

Bigger, louder, more bloated, and without any discernible reason for existing, "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" is a star-studded vacation travelogue as clunkily assembled as its title. It's a breezy, painless, roughly 90-minute film that will have you smiling at regular intervals, but it's about as memorable as what you ate for lunch last Tuesday.

Hollywood has a long, not-so-proud history of making unnecessary sequels to marginally successful, star-heavy action-comedies that wrapped themselves up just fine the first time. "The Whole Ten Yards," "Red 2," and "Horrible Bosses 2" are just a few of these films, whose very titles feel like a ripe punchline waiting for a late night talk show host. Generally speaking, these films try to make up for their glaring lack of a mandate by taking the original formula and repeating it, adding new stars and locations.

"Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" follows that playbook page by page. It starts out with a quick dream sequence re-establishing the basic plot of the first film (Ryan Reynolds' Michael Brice is a meticulous bodyguard having an existential crisis after Samuel L. Jackson's hitman Darius Kincaid took out his client; Salma Hayek is Kincaid's foul-mouthed, fiery wife), then attempts to give us a reason why all these characters need to get together again. It is flimsy, to say the least: Darius has been kidnapped, Sonia misinterpreted a message, and now she's forcing Michael to help her get him back — even though Darius didn't really want his help, Sonia shows she could have performed the rescue herself, Michael doesn't seem to have any reason to continue along, and a new side adventure pops up that peripherally requires their involvement.

New stars are sprinkled in liberally to give the appearance of flavor, like salt in a boiling stew. Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo, Richard E. Grant — all here, none with a character that seems worthy of their considerable talents. Perhaps it was the enticement of going on vacation all over Europe, as seemingly every scene of the film moves the action to a new locale, including (but not limited to) Croatia, London, Italy, and Bulgaria. Perhaps it was doing hanging out with this cast of Hollywood treasures, who all seem like they'd be having much more interesting conversations between takes than when the camera is rolling. This is the sort of film that feels like it had a really fun wrap party.

In no time, "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" is whipping you around like an amusement park ride, going from one room to the next, each populated by momentary diversions that seem to compete with each other rather than advance the story. There's a huge mansion! A gaudy nightclub! A gorgeous baby nursery! A yacht! Of course, most of these locations exist only to be filled with splattering blood and bullet holes.

The story itself is mere scaffolding, providing a flimsy framework for these characters reuniting. Banderas is the hilariously named Aristotle Papadopolous (presumably a long-lost relative of Webster), who has somehow located a single box at the bottom of the ocean that controls all of Europe's electricity, and plans to mess with it. In any normal film, Banderas' over-the-top attempts to portray a Greek billionaire would win the "worst accent" award, but just wait until you hear New York's own Frank Grillo pretend he's from Boston.

Why do they keep tying us to chairs?

It all results in the eager-yet-uninvested trio of Reynolds, Jackson and Hayek running all over Europe, shooting almost everyone they encounter, and screaming nonstop at each other. Each of the leads is clearly enjoying themselves, which goes a long way, and each gets to play somewhat against type. Watching Samuel L. Jackson in a kissing scene reminds you of how infrequently his characters get romantic partners; Hayek's dialogue in this movie feels like something Lisa Lampanelli would reject as too ribald; Reynolds is a million miles away from his typical, smooth-talking action hero.

Which is actually a bit off-putting. With George Clooney having not made a major film in a half-decade, Reynolds would seem to have assumed the throne of Hollywood's most charismatic star. But here he's essentially a cuckold, tagging along as a third wheel while Jackson and Hayek mock him, drug him, beat him up and have sex in a car while he's locked in a trunk, listening in horror. Reynolds' Michael feels like the modern-day equivalent of Sally Struthers' husband in "The Getaway," increasingly miserable on this road trip from hell to the point where you expect him to kill himself by the end of the film.

The film seems eager to oblige him. Michael is shot in the face with a dozen poison arrows, hit by not one but two speeding cars (neither injures him, which seems offensive to anyone who has ever really been struck by a car), and told by his own father to get up out of a pile of trash because he's making it look less appealing. While it seems obvious that Reynolds treasures the role because it allows him to play an against-type loser who is the butt of everyone else's jokes for a change, Michael might be the least enjoyable character to watch in Reynolds' lengthy career ... and yes, that is considering "The Nines."

Seriously guys, stop tying us to chairs

But, of course, when the script necessitates it, Michael's schlubby ineptitude washes away like shampoo in the shower. Walking down a hallway of weaponry, Reynolds confidently grabs items off the wall and wields them with enough proficiency to make you think you're watching outtakes from "Blade: Trinity." When a massive explosion is imminent, he summons superheroic strength (as does his north-of-70 co-star Jackson) to sprint and leap like a "Deadpool" deleted scene. Such moments are so detached from reality (all the CGI only making matters worse) that "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" becomes yet another Hollywood action film that has clinically removed all tension and excitement from a scene three screenwriters intended to create exactly that.

Speaking of said screenwriters, they seem to be playing a game here, working in as many random topics as they can while presenting it all as some cohesive product. Amnesia, infertility, gelato, amusement park mishaps, shark attacks, the 1987 Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell film "Overboard," Samuel Adams beer ... each namechecked to serve an immediate narrative need, then discarded. Hayek's character leaves Jackson for Banderas, then returns to him a few scenes later with no harm, no foul. Reynolds' Michael is obsessed with recovering his suspended license to be a bodyguard, and it seems every other character in the film has the power to revoke or grant it to him, yanking its status back and forth like a yo-yo from scene to scene. Perhaps most head-scratching, however, is Freeman's character — slugging it out in action scenes while simultaneously pointing out he's 90 years old (in real life, the actor is 84) — and shifting allegiances from one scene to the next with little motivation to do so.

It's 2021, and we're all starved for something new to see now that theaters have reopened. If you want 90 minutes of air-conditioned, turn-off-your-brain entertainment, there are worse ways to spend your time than catching "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" at the theater. But ultimately, this film deserves to join "The Whole Ten Yards," "Red 2," and "Horrible Bosses 2" in another Hollywood tradition — as the movie that killed their franchise's hopes to make more sequels.