‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ Review: A Winking Bash of Wretched Excess

Ryan Reynolds, Samuel. L. Jackson, and Salma Hayek return for a sequel to "The Hitman's Bodyguard" that's so over-the-top it's an insult to the concept of having a top.

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
Courtesy of Lionsgate/Everett Collection

In “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (I think that’s the whole title — good thing the bodyguard didn’t have a dog), the gunshots are so loud they sound like they’re hitting a metal canister you’re trapped inside. Many of those shots are aimed right — splat! — at the head: This is an action comedy in which people get killed like flies, often with their brains splattered. At one point a truck blows up as it makes its way over a giant bridge, and for good measure the bridge blows up too. The film seems to be saying, “Why not?” To describe the rollicking mayhem of “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” as over-the-top would be an insult to the concept of having a top.

It isn’t just the ultraviolent action that assaults you in a frenzy of debauched thriller hyperbole. So does the plot, which has something to do with Antonio Banderas as a pompadoured psycho in a smoking jacket who’s out to destroy Europe with a computer virus. What the story really has to do with, though, is the three title characters — the sociopathic hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), his seethingly ferocious con-artist wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), and the ace bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), an ironically sensitive bespoke pussycat who’s along for the ride — pelting each other with every conceivable variation of threat, taunt, and insult.

An even more gonzo sequel to the 2017 buddy-movie-on-Adderall “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” has been directed by Patrick Hughes as a winking bash of wretched excess that makes the most overly amped and slovenly entry in the “Fast and Furious” franchise look like “North by Northwest.” It’s like a movie written by the Shane Black of 30 years ago (“The Last Boy Scout”) turned into a brazenly corrupt parody of itself.

So is it, you know, fun? At times it is; at others it’s exhausting. Let’s call the whole thing fun-xhausting. But a movie like this one, in its trivially unhinged and irresponsible way, does feel, at moments, like a cultural marker: the cinematic equivalent of defining deviancy down. The story scarcely pretends to add up to anything plausible or logical, and the “relationships” often feel like they’ve been shaken and stirred in a blender of comic-book nonsense. Darius, who in the previous film hired Michael to guard him (which didn’t work out so well), now wants nothing to do with him. But Sonia has hired him back (all because she misheard Darius’s order), though the real issue that these two feral newlyweds are dealing with is their stunted fertility. Meanwhile, all Michael wants to do is get his bodyguard license back. Did you know that bodyguards in action movies even have licenses? If the Banderas-as-cyber-terrorist plot is the film’s apocalyptic but weightless MacGuffin, Michael’s desire to be reinstated as an official bodyguard is something less — call it the McMuffin.

Jackson does his badass-indignance-in-a-porkpie-hat number in a way that’s just pumped-up enough to feel wearyingly overfamiliar, Hayek goes into foul-mouthed rants so screamingly operatic you wish someone like Tarantino had been around to give them a funkier context, Morgan Freeman demonstrates that at 84 he’s still got some wily surprise in him, and Reynolds, who comes off like the late Charles Grodin with a cuddly speech impediment, looks smashing and summons up the film’s spirit when he asks a couple of hired guns, “Are you ready to get your fuck on?” “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is not a good movie, but it answers that question with a triumphantly trashy yes.

‘Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ Review: A Winking Bash of Wretched Excess

Reviewed online, June 2, 2021. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 100 MIN.

  • Production: A Lionsgate release of a Millennium Media, Nu Boyana Film Studios production, in association with Campbell Grobman Films, Film I Våst, Filmgate Films. Producers: Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon, Yariv Lerner. Executive producers: Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson, Jeffrey Greenstein, Jonathan Yunger, Matthew Milam, Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman, Heidi Jo Markel, Zygi Kamasa, Peter Possne, Mark Gill.
  • Crew: Director: Patrick Hughes. Screenplay: Tom O’Connor, Brandon Murphy, Phillip Murphy. Camera: Terry Stacey. Editors: Michael Duthie, Jack Hitchings. Music: Atli Örvarsson.
  • With: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Richard E. Grant, Frank Grillo.