Tom Santilli is a respected journalist and member of the Critics Choice Association, Detroit Film Critics Society and Online Film Critics Society since 2010. Tom is the Executive Producer and co-host of the syndicated TV show, "Movie Show Plus," which has been on the air for 20+ years in the Metro-Detroit market and Mid-West. He is also the film critic for WXYZ-TV. Twitter: @tomsantilli, Facebook & Instagram: @filmsurvivor.
If you were a fan of the original 2017 action-comedy, "The Hitman's Bodyguard," there is almost no way that you won't also like its sequel, "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard." That's because it's essentially the same movie, with the same primary cast, writer and director, but it's a lot leaner (shorter), tighter and funnier than its predecessor.
Did we need a sequel to "The Hitman's Bodyguard"? Nah. But in a world where Intellectual Properties reign supreme, there are worse universes to find yourself thrown back into.
"The Hitman's Bodyguard" was a modest hit when it was released mid-August of 2017...it took in a worldwide gross of just under 180 million, but with a budget somewhere beneath 70 million, it made money for Lionsgate. In some ways, that first film set itself up for a sequel that would more prominently feature the wife of seemingly invincible hitman, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). Salma Hayek's foul-mouthed Sonia Kincaid was tragically underused the first time around, and given more screen-time in the sequel, she blows the doors off the franchise, becoming the shot-in-the-arm that the series didn't know it needed.
Picking up from the first film, former "AAA-Rated" bodyguard, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), is dealing with major emotional trauma stemming from his relationship with Darius Kincaid. He's given up on his profession as a bodyguard and is even trying to avoid guns at all costs. But he finds himself swept up in criminal activity once again when he's found on a beach off the coast of Italy by both Sonia and Darius, who need his help when an old flame of Sonia's, Aristotle Papadopolous (Antonio Banderas), intends to hunt them down.
Where the first film never was quite able to settle into a lane between action and comedy, the sequel smartly leans into absurdity. And by taking itself less seriously, it allows the audience to loosen up as well. There is still action and some of the same-type chase-sequences as the first movie, but here it's a bit cleaner and usually infuses some comedic elements as to not make the audience ever question that they're watching a comedy. It's a good 20 minutes shorter than the first film too, and every spared minute feels appreciated.
We already know that Reynolds and Jackson have good chemistry, but it's the addition of Salma Hayek that really propels this chapter. She lets loose like never before on-screen, showing a natural ability for comedic timing, and the vulgarity of her character is as surprising as it is hilarious. If anyone is pushed into the background this time around, it's Samuel L. Jackson, but he is given his moments as well. Antonio Banderas hams it up as a ridiculous villain, but he knows exactly the movie he's featured in, and he delivers (you may remember that Banderas and Hayek both broke through to American audiences in the same film, the 1995 Robert Rodriguez directed "Desperado"). Banderas and Hayek have inherent chemistry as well, and the film doesn't waste its opportunities to have their characters interact more than once.
Morgan Freeman is also good, in a role that I won't spoil here, as his identity itself is a punchline in the film. At one point, the 84-year-old actor is given a hand-to-hand fight sequence, and you know the tone of the movie has been successfully established when this induces laughs, as anything goes in this ludicrous action universe.
At the very least, in no scenario is this a worse or lesser film than the first one. "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" takes what worked back in 2017 and refines it, adding in some elements that will make its original fanbase proud, or for those that might enjoy this without knowing it was even a sequel, it will compel them to seek out the first chapter. Best of all from the perspective of its studio, Lionsgate, the sequel packs more punch and contains more stars, and was actually a bit cheaper to make...why aim to be a massive blockbuster when you can settle for a profitable one?
This sequel shows that this is one well that has yet to be drained dry.
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime.
Run Time: 1 hour 39 minutes.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Frank Grillo.
Directed by Patrick Hughes ("Hitman's Bodyguard," "The Expendables 3," "Red Hill").
"The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard" is in theaters on Wednesday, June 16th, 2021.
(Caution: "Red Band Trailer" below.)