Created in 2004, the Black List is an annual survey of the best-liked yet unproduced screenplays. The 2011 list included films such as Django Unchained, Saving Mr Banks and The Imitation Game, which all went on to become Academy Award nominees. It also featured a drama by Tom O’Connor, which was quickly rewritten to become The Hitman’s Bodyguard, an action-comedy directed by Expendables 3 director Patrick Hughes.
The film follows protection agent Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), who has been assigned to protect notorious hitman and former adversary Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), who is scheduled to testify against ruthless dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). Forced to work together, the pair race to travel from the UK to the Hague within 24 hours while avoiding Dukhovich’s henchmen.
On the face of it, there is a lot going for the film. It stars two popular actors and represents the typical action blockbuster that summer cinema audiences tend to enjoy. However, O Connor’s uninspiring screenplay features a plot that is unoriginal and too predictable. The little bouts of drama and emotion try and sensitise the characters through personal reflection, but they ultimately come across an unnecessary and fail to add any complexity to the story. They also become as redundant as the film’s talented supporting cast, including Oldman, Daredevil’s Élodie Yung and a loudmouth Salma Hayek, as they are denied a chance to shine because most of the film revolves around Bryce and Kincaid’s reluctant partnership.
Behind the camera, Hughes does little to support the lacklustre narrative, as he focuses on the film’s numerous action sequences and comedic elements to drive it. Though initially enjoyable, they eventually become tiresome as the film goes on.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard heavily depends on the star power of its two leading men, who share a competitive chemistry that is similar to buddy films such as Lethal Weapon or Tango and Cash. Reynolds’ Bryce is calm, collected and a little deadpan, while Jackson’s Kincaid is arrogant that edges on the verge of annoying. Together, they manage to complement each other while delivering moderately amusing performances, which save the film from being a complete mess.
With too much attention focused on its stars and too little on everything else, The Hitman’s Bodyguard doesn’t deliver enough to make this action-comedy memorable.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard is out in UK cinemas on 17 August.
Director: Patrick Hughes, Tom O’Connor (scr.)
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Élodie Yung, Salma Hayek
Runtime: 118 minutes