Towards the end of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (“Tough To Care 2”) There is a scene where Ryan Reynolds repeatedly bangs a man’s head against a jukebox aboard a yacht. Every time the bloody head collides with the machine, a different song plays, right up to Ace of Base’s “The Sign”.
“You’re lucky,” Reynolds tells his unconscious rival as he walks away to cause more disaster. “I love this song”.
That single scene perfectly captures the essence of the sequel to The Hitman’s Bodyguard (“Hard to care”) from 2017: too violent, overwhelmingly tender and very self-referential.
Fans of the original will understand the joke about “The Sign,” but the sequel probably won’t win over any new fans. The movie suffers from the same thing that many second parts suffer from: the same basic idea, only made bigger.
So if the first was to get a witness in Holland to testify about a European war criminal, the second is about saving Europe’s very existence. If the first had a star like Salma Hayek as a supporting actress, in this one she rises to co-star and has the additions of the greats Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman. Director Patrick Hughes returns for this overloaded sequel, but this time he’s having trouble balancing violence with his heart. There are too many characters – a Boston Interpol agent and a rival bodyguard, among them – who blend into a deranged 007-style plot with a tendency to get uncomfortably personal.
Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson play enemy friends again, and their lines are still full of electricity (and plenty of eschatological humor). Reynolds plays bodyguard Michael Bryce, a careful and confident professional (“boring is always the best” is his motto) who is going through a moment of existential doubt, having lost his license. Jackson is Darius Kincaid, a hit man who shoots first and then thinks about the consequences.
And The Hitman’s Bodyguard it was a friendly romance between these two, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard It is a trio thanks to the great energy of Hayek, who steals the screen with his character. She is as deadly, profane, and impulsive as her husband (“Your mouth needs an exorcism,” Bryce tells her, surprised). But the effect is that this talented trio is unbalanced and awkward; three is definitely a crowd.
If there was a chic style in the first film, it disappeared in the second, which sometimes seems cloying in its attempt to recreate the first. In addition to the return of Ace of Base, there are other repeated references: “Hello” by Lionel Richie, a group of nuns, a deadly use of a razor, a cameo by Richard E. Grant, someone thrown out of a car for not wearing a seat belt security and the kidnapping of the main characters with a black bag over their heads. “This feels familiar,” says Bryce. We know the feeling.
The plot puts Reynolds, Jackson, and Hayek racing through Italy to stop a mobster from harming Europe by destroying its electrical and cyber infrastructure, or something like that. The mobster is played by Banderas, who has refrained from eating the environment around him to swallow only pieces dressed bizarrely as a mix of Liberace with “a set of curtains.” (The actual dialogue in this description is more colorful.)
For whatever reason the writers (Tom O’Connor, Phillip Murphy, and Brandon Murphy) added a twist of amnesia, a digression on fertility, a drug intoxication, and an ill-conceived exploration of parenthood and family legacy. Also, they squandered Freeman’s skill in a nebulous and confusing role, which is inexcusable.
The movie is at its best when it winks at the viewer – Reynolds gets in a car and says “here comes the car chase” – or when the film is absurdly over the top, as when the two heroes and the villain refer to Goldie Hawn’s 1987 film “Overboard”, which Banderas calls “a minor classic.” But no one, not even fans of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, would consider this second part a classic.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, a Lionsgate premiere, is rated R (requiring minors under 17 to view it with a parent or guardian) from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for “ strong bloody violence, inappropriate language and certain sexual content ”. Duration: 118 minutes. One star out of four.