September 23rd 2017


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COVER STORY Labor's vision for a transgender world

EDITORIAL Liddell closure: acid test for Turnbull

EUTHANASIA We risk turning our doctors into death dealers

DOCUMENTARY Harvested Alive: killing Falung Gong in China

AGENDA FOR AUSTRALIA Distorted jobless stats defeat planning efforts

ENVIRONMENT Hurricane Harvey: don't let a good disaster go to waste

AFL GRAND FINAL Bob Santamaria predicted the sunset of Aussie Rules

HISTORY After 500 years, is sugar going sour?

IDEOLOGY OF TRANSGENDERISM Reshaping our identities and relationships

MUSIC The Sequence: it's elementary

CINEMA The Hitman's Bodyguard: 'Eighties' action with popcorn

BOOK REVIEW One of globalisation's dwindling band

POETRY

HUMOUR

LETTERS

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE For bullying, look left, look left, and then look left again

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CINEMA
The Hitman's Bodyguard: 'Eighties' action with popcorn


by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, September 23, 2017

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is not a film to watch for plot or realism. Variety accurately described it as a “live-action cartoon”, a foul-mouthed hyper-violent Looney-Tunes-esque action comedy, where the performances, especially the chemistry between the leads, raise it from being a pedestrian thriller to an enjoyable, if lightweight, entertainment.

This is also probably not the film to watch if you want to see how Interpol and the International Criminal Court operate, but I’m guessing audiences already know that.

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds playing a Ryan Reynolds type) is – as he constantly reminds everyone – a “triple-A rated executive protection agent” who, once upon a time, was one of the best in the business, at least by his own reckoning. All that changes when one of his clients gets killed in front of him, despite extensive security precautions.

Nowadays Bryce looks after a “different” sort of client, like Mr Seifert (Richard E. Grant), an attorney whose paranoia probably comes as much from the substances he consumes as from his dealings with organised crime.

Bryce gets a chance to restore his status by escorting a high-value witness to The Hague to testify against Belarusian dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). The catch is that the witness is one of the world’s most dangerous hitmen, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson playing a Samuel L. Jackson type).

Interpol was guarding Kincaid, but Dukhovich had a source inside, allowing his men to attack the transport, killing all the guards apart from Kincaid and Agent Amelia Roussel (Élodie Yung), who turns to Bryce when things go south. Roussel and Bryce were once involved and he’s less than keen to do anything to help her out.

His keenness lessens even more when he discovers that Kincaid is the witness, as Kincaid has tried to kill him a few – well, 28 – times while taking potshots at Bryce’s clients. The stage is set for a foul-mouthed, high-octane action-comedy buddy movie as we follow our two anti-heroes while they try to outrun Dukhovich’s goons on their way to court.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an entertaining popcorn movie that works due to the action set pieces and the strong performances of its leads. Reynolds and Jackson are in sparkling form, quipping and squabbling their way through the chaos, their diametrically opposed characters grating on each other constantly.

Kincaid is devoted to his foul-mouthed and explosive wife Sonia – played by a hilarious Salma Hayek turning her hot-blooded Latinness up to 11 – who’s stuck in a Dutch prison; possibly as a result of her relationship with Kincaid, and possibly because she’s just as violent as her husband – the couple did meet in a bar-room brawl, after all. Bryce was devoted to Roussel, but he blames her for the death that derailed his business, and fixates upon that instead.

Kincaid has two motivations in testifying. The first is a plea deal that sees his wife Sonia go free. The second comes from his moral code. Kincaid may work for bad guys, but he makes a point of only killing bad guys. Dukhovich’s brutal killing of innocents repels him. This is contrasted with Bryce, who prefers to know nothing about his clients, and whose clients tend not to be nice people.

The comic riffs of the “good guys” are contrasted with Gary Oldman’s chilling performance as Dukhovich. Some critics have commented that it’s almost as if he’s in a different movie. Oldman’s controlled menace and iron-hard self-assurance superbly embody the ruthlessness and determination required of dictators – their unrelenting belief in both themselves and the necessity of their rule for the “good” of their people.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is no artistic masterpiece, but it is a decent piece of cinema. Australian director Patrick Hughes builds on the work he did in The Expendables 3 – which brought together an ageing all-star action cast to engage in pyrotechnics and discussions about growing old – to craft something clever and enjoyable, if not particularly deep.

There is also a decidedly 1980s/1990s action vibe to the film with many hits of that era providing the soundtrack, and a visual style that seems a direct inspiration at times. At its heart it’s a fun time at the movies and that’s about it. It’s like a distinctive, almost-but-not-quite gourmet popcorn paired with a good soft drink, perhaps with a dash of whisky for Gary Oldman’s performance.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).




























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