Millennium consistently churn out star-studded films that neither live up to the caliber of talent they attract, nor the skill of the directors behind the lens; Olympus Has Fallen, The Iceman, 88 Minutes, etc. Alas, you could count the good Millennium films with three fingers, however, now thanks to Aussie helmer Partick Hughes' THE HITMANS BODYGUARD, you'll be giving your whole hand a stretch.
The movie is essentially another retread of DeNiro's 1988 caper Midnight Run (with a dash of Millennium's previous Richard Donner effort 16 Blocks thrown in for good measure) and much like Martin Brest's screwy chums-on-the-run caper, a great deal of HITMAN'S success is directly due to Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds' buoyant chemistry.
Reynolds is Michael Bryce, the AAA Rated executive bodyguard assigned to escort Sam Jackson's hitman, Darius Kincaid, to The International Court of Justice at The Hague in order to testify against Gary Oldman's dictator Vladislav Dukhovich and the war crimes he has committed. Bryce and Kincaid are in London and they need to be in The Netherlands within 36-hours by any means necessary.
It's high-concept enough that it practically writes itself. We've seen it before, no doubt, but rarely has the genre been this much fun. THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD is fun, god damn it.
Sam Jackson (much like Nicholas Cage, Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts) just can't seem to say 'no' to a script that lands on his desk these days, so it's refreshing to see him look like he sincerely cares about the outcome of a project he takes on. Hughes seems to have taken off Jackson's leash and let him run riot, giving him free reign with the script allowing him to bounce off a counterpart, showcasing his adeptness at wise-cracks, comic timing and fisticuffs.
Reynolds, in his second Millennium outing following last years woeful Kevin Costner-starring Criminal, does what he does best; sharp, quick-witted and scathing sarcasm packaged in one, neat and tidy six-pack but also touching when it comes to the lovey-dovey, doe-eyed scenes when it's required.
It's not just those in front of the lens having a blast, Hughes seems like he's having a wild time. Following The Expendables 3 (with some reports of a tumultuous time behind-the-scenes) it's nice to see the home-made lad stretch his wings into territory he seems completely comfortable in. He's wise enough to handle the blitzing action sequences with a deft hand and tight control yet savvy enough to simply place the camera in front of Reynolds and Jackson and let them do the heavy lifting when they're on a roll.
Throw in a fiery extended cameo from a sultry Salma Hayek (more of her biting comedy next time please), an Eastern-European Gary Oldman (kinda sounds like Vlad The Impaler but looks like Commissioner Gordon), a globe-trotting plot (hello Amsterdam, Netherlands and London) and you round out one of the biggest surprises of the year.
The movie ain't perfect though. It overstays its welcome, giving us not one but three finales, meaning you can't help but feel Hughes & co knew they were on to a good thing and didn't know when to call it a night. It's an odd thing to say but THB has more false-endings than LORD OF THE RINGS. Seriously, and it's a shame such a good ride should have such a sore point at the close of its 120-minute running time, leaving the viewer with action-fatigue and a wish that it had tie up its plot-lines a little more efficiently.
Nevertheless, even with 10 to 15-minutes of extra padding at the end, THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD does amounts to one of the best buddy-action-comedies in recent memory.