Review of “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard”

Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is having nightmares about hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) following their adventures a few years earlier. Micheal has had his AAA bodyguard license suspended until it’s reviewed by the governing board. His therapist suggests he leave his future self messages on his phone and take a much-needed vacation. Michael’s relaxing trip to the Italian coast is violently interrupted by Darius’ wife Sonia (Salma Hayek). She’s involved in a shootout with henchmen of the mafioso that kidnapped Darius and needs Michael to help her save him. Michael complains that he’s taking a sabbatical from guns and being a bodyguard, but Sonia won’t take no for an answer. They find the warehouse where Darius is being held and free him, killing every thug there. That complicates the case of Interpol agent Bobby O’Neill (Frank Grillo) as the mafioso was a confidential informant about a potential threat to Europe’s digital infrastructure from Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas). Papadopoulos is angry over European Union sanctions against Greece, and he plans on taking his revenge by planting a computer virus in Europe’s biggest internet junction and destroying anything connected to the web, including banking, power generation and distribution and more. Bryce and the Kincaids can avoid long prison terms if they work with Agent O’Neill and stop Papadopoulos from enacting his plan. It would help if they could not kill each other in the process.

If you’re looking for a deep, complex examination of life and existence in the modern world, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” ain’t it. This is mindless summer movie entertainment. It’s the junk food of cinema. It makes a billboard for a personal injury lawyer look like high art. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is empty calories for your brain…and that’s just fine by me.

While it’s as equally predictable as “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” the story is not really why we’re sitting in a dark theater watching Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Selma Hayek screaming at each other and trotting around Europe. The purpose of this kind of goofy film is to allow the audience to escape the outside world and go to a place that’s uncomplicated and requires nothing from us. We want to take a brief mental vacation from work issues, family problems, political strife and coronavirus fears.

Ryan Reynolds is his usual charming self. He plays a more broken version of Michael than before. Without his AAA bodyguard license suspended, he doesn’t know who he is or what he should do with the rest of his life. This is played for laughs as he annoys everyone around him (including his therapist) and tries a non-violent form of personal protection, arming himself with pepper spray and unloading all the guns he gets his hands on. Reynolds plays roughly the same character in most of his films: Sweet but edgy, kind but selfish, easily tricked into whatever scheme Sonia and Darius have cooked up but always one step ahead. It’s Reynolds’ gift to be able to perform the same character so effortlessly and still be entertaining.

The same can be said for Samuel L. Jackson. Darius is very similar to his brief role in “Sprial: From the Book of Saw” as former Police Chief Marcus Banks. It’s also a great deal like most of his film roles from the last 30 years, from Jules in “Pulp Fiction” to the “Shaft” reboots to “XXX” to “Snakes on a Plane” to “Django Unchained” to pretty much every other film, with the exception of the “Star Wars” prequels where he is much more toned down. Finding your groove and getting people to pay for you to play the same person repeatedly, isn’t a criticism. Jackson is 72 years old and one of the most bankable actors working in films today. According to his Wikipedia page, a tallying of the total grosses of his film appearance that aren’t cameos, Jackson’s movies have made $27 billion at the worldwide box office. As the saying goes” If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And Jackson ain’t broke in any sense of the word. It may not set the world on fire, but Jackson’s performance in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is the kind his fans have come to expect and love. In that regard, he doesn’t disappoint.

What can you say about Selma Hayek’s performance that doesn’t involve her beauty? She is a constant source of energy in the film. You can feel the heat radiating from her as she either rails at Darius and Michael for not getting along or smolders when she expresses her passion for her husband and her desire to have his baby (a running joke and minor subplot in the film). The several times she strings together a mixture of English and Spanish curses at whomever throughout the movie is a hoot, and her motherly feelings for Michael pay off in a joke at the end of the film. Hayek is part of why this film is worth seeing.

Poor Antonio Banderas. He’s rarely given anything interesting to do in these popcorn movies when he’s the villain. Papadopoulos is a very generic bad guy. He’s angry at the world and has the money and power to exact his revenge. His target is the leaders of the EU, but his real victims will be the small businesses and workers that will lose their jobs, their savings and their homes if he succeeds. It’s a bad part written with little consideration for the talented actor playing him. He gets to wear a lovely grey wig and some gaudy costumes, but that’s small consolation considering the how underutilized he is. Someone please, write a good part for Banderas in an action comedy! I’m begging you!

The humor and action in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is also more of the same from the first film, but I enjoyed it all again. The fights, the chases, the wanton destruction of property and infrastructure is a bit more messy in this go round. Splitting up the final confrontations into three didn’t work for me as I’d rather watch the trio fight together to defeat numerous foes than have them scattered and their heroics cut up into multiple scenes. Michaels’ final showdown with his ultimate enemy was a bit of a stretch to believe as he’s fighting someone who, in real life, is 40 years older. Still, the way that struggle is set up made its conclusion a bit more satisfying. The humor is of the juvenile level we got in the first film. I’m a teenager in an old man’s body, so I found the film funny, if slightly less funny than last time.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, and some sexual content. There are numerous shootings with lots of blood spatter, a few corpses are shown with their eyes stabbed out, there are lots of fights, stabbings, car crashes and people hit by cars. The sexual content is more on the humorous side as Hayek and Jackson are shown and heard having sex a few times while Reynolds responds with disgust. Foul language is common with Samuel L. Jackson delivering his trademark MF’s and the rest of the cast joins in.

I really enjoyed “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” from 2017. I loved the humor and action. While the story was predictable, the rest of it worked for me in a big way. It would have been easy to just repeat the formula from the first film in “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” and the filmmakers mostly do. There’s a tiny bit of stunt casting that was a huge surprise that also leads to a double cross late in the story. There are more scenic locations to look at during shootouts and car chases, and the massively complicated and unlikely scheme of the bad guy is pretty standard. All in all, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is more of the same and for me, that works.

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” gets four stars out of five.

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Review of “Dolittle”

Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), the doctor that talks to animals, has exiled himself in his compound since the death of his wife Lily (Kasia Smutniak). He’s still surrounded by the animals he rescued with Lily, including a cowardly gorilla named Chee-Chee (voiced by Rami Malek), a constantly cold polar bear named Yoshi (voiced by John Cena), a duck with an artificial leg named Dab-Dab (voiced by Octavia Spencer), a glasses-wearing dog named Jip (voiced by Tom Holland) and leading them all is a headstrong macaw named Polynesia (voiced by Emma Thompson). Dolittle’s isolation is broken when a teenager named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) shows up with an injured squirrel. The squirrel was accidently shot when Tommy was out hunting with his uncle and cousin. Tommy bundles up the squirrel and Poly guides him to Dolittle’s. Dolittle performs surgery on the squirrel, named Kevin (voiced by Craig Robinson), and he survives but swears revenge on Tommy. Also arriving at the mansion is Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), Queen Victoria’s niece. She tells Dolittle the Queen is ill and needs his attention immediately. Reluctant, Dolittle initially refuses to leave the compound, but the animal’s rebel and force him to go. When Dolittle arrives, he sees an old friend from medical school, Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen) is treating the Queen. Mudfly is dubious of Dolittle’s methods and animals and is jealous of his talents. Also on hand is Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent), representing Parliament. Using Jip’s sensitive nose, Dolittle figures out the Queen has been poisoned by drinking tea laced with the poisonous plant Deadly Nightshade. The only cure is a rare fruit that grows on only one tree, located on an island that doesn’t appear on any map. If the cure isn’t administered soon, the Queen with die, so Dolittle, several of his animal friends and Tommy, who has appointed himself Dolittle’s apprentice, set off on a dangerous journey across treacherous seas, looking for an island that may not exist and encounter animal friends and human foes from his past.

Watching “Dolittle,” I kept waiting for the moment the film completely falls apart. With mostly negative reviews and a Rotten Tomatoes score in the teens, I assumed the movie would begin showing us characters late in the third act we hadn’t seen before or would start espousing Nazi propaganda. None of that happened. Sure, its muddled, messy and has the pacing of a child fed only sugar and crack, but “Dolittle” is an enjoyable catastrophe.

“Catastrophe” is too strong a word, but there are things about the film that don’t make a great deal of sense. For instance, there are phrases said by the animals that didn’t exist at the time, like “Code Red.” Access to an unconscious Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) is far too easy. While the guards act like they are going to try to stop a gorilla, ostrich (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) and polar bear from being near the fallen queen, they don’t fire their guns or draw their swords. It appears anyone in nice clothes and with a friendly face could walk into the palace. I realize these issues, and more are due to the comical and fantasy aspects of the story and must be forgiven to some extent, however what I have a harder time wrapping my head around is Robert Downey Jr.’s accent.

Why did he choose to sound like a male version of Robin Williams’ Mrs. Doubtfire? And why was that choice apparently made after principle photography as his voice appears to have been dubbed for the majority of the film? Speaking in low whispers, as if telling a secret to someone that isn’t there, Downey is difficult to understand through the film, and his dialog is frequently repeated or expanded upon by an animal or human costar. It’s one of many odd choices by Downey for a character that’s been portrayed in movies by Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy.

Like his choices in the “Sherlock Holmes” films, Dolittle is a person beset by quirks and twitches. He’s antisocial, preferring to live in a world of his own making. He is a creature of habit that hates to have his routine disrupted. Dolittle is protecting himself from pain caused by people leaving him, so he’s banished people from his life. I suppose that’s okay for someone that is surrounded by a menagerie of friendly animals with whom he can converse, but the animals in “Dolittle” are just furrier versions of people in their behaviors and personalities. Since they depend on the doctor for care and food, these analogs will never leave him and, in my opinion, that’s cheating the only redeeming factor of this Dolittle. He misses his wife with such a deep grief he cannot force himself back into the world. If he had also pushed all the animals away, then I might be a bit more sympathetic to the character, but he has replaced people with talking animals.

It sounds like I didn’t enjoy the film at all, and yet I did. Once you get used to Dolittle’s quirks and other oddities, you are swept up in the frenetic pacing of the film that hardly allows the audience to absorb one strange event before the next begins. From the introduction of Dolittle and his zoo of a house, to his arrival at the palace and the introduction of the villain, to the start of the voyage, “Dolittle” doesn’t slow down. That’s works in the film’s favor as the audience doesn’t have time to ponder the weird events as they unfold.

The CGI animals are obviously CGI. Sometimes they look more digital than others and the sight lines between the human and animal characters don’t quite line up. Despite this, it never bothered me. Perhaps it was the voice work by a wide and diverse cast that made the second-rate effects more palatable. Emma Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Tom Holland, Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer and John Cena all turn in enjoyable performances as a variety of animals. Most of them are far more interesting than any of the humans.

Michael Sheen had to pick splinters out of his teeth with all the scenery he chews as the villain Dr. Mudfly. His evil ark is easy to predict as soon as his character is shown picking leeches out of a jar to apply to Queen Victoria to treat her mysterious illness. He even has a twirlable mustache which, for some reason, he doesn’t twirl. That seems like a missed opportunity for such an obvious bad guy.

Antonio Banderas is perhaps the oddest casting for Rassouli, King of the Pirates. While Banderas, nominated for an Oscar for his starring role in “Pain and Glory,” gives it his all, the role is underwritten and a throw-away character that solves a problem late in the second act. There’s an effort to make Rassouli something bigger by giving he and Dolittle a past connection, but that only serves to make the meaninglessness more obvious. Still, Banderas does his best with a role that probably took only a couple of days to shoot.

“Dolittle” is rated PG for some action, rude humor and brief language. There are a couple of scenes of mild violence including a brief battle with the Queen’s guards, cannon fire that sinks a ship, an explosion in an arms cache, some leaps and falls that might be considered dangerous and a diver nearly lost in the sea. None of it should be stressful to even young children. The rude humor consists of fart jokes. Bad language is mild and widely scattered.

The humor in “Dolittle” is what actually won me. While it is basic prat falls and more than a few fart jokes, it works as a light diversion for a world that’s on fire and tearing itself apart. Could it have been better, much, much better? Yes, it should. Robert Downey Jr.’s first film since his final appearance as Iron Man should have been more polished and, maybe more meaningful. Instead, we get a movie about a guy that talks to animals and goes on adventures, that sounds like male Mrs. Doubtfire and whispers and twitches a great deal. It won’t win any awards, except may a Razzie or two, but it also isn’t the least bit offensive and children may love it, while leaving their parents to wish for something more. And yet, I still liked it.

“Dolittle” gets four stars out of five, and may God have mercy on my soul.

This week, I’ll be reviewing “The Gentlemen” for WIMZ.com.

Also opening this week is “The Turning.”

Listen to Comedy Tragedy Marriage, a podcast about life, love and entertainment, available wherever you get podcasts. Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman123@gmail.com.