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Stuff blows up, people die, jokes are made, ‘Hitman’s Bodyguard’ misses mark

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Some movies you watch and you turn your brain off and just enjoy the experience (in theory). Some movies require intense thought and critical analysis to fully comprehend what it’s trying to accomplish. Some movies attempt to do a bit of both.

There’s nothing inherently “wrong” about any type of movie, but some categories (especially the former) lend themselves to lesser quality films than others. “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” fits squarely into that first mold.

Starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson as — you guessed it — a bodyguard and a hitman, there’s a loose shell of a plot surrounding these two actors as they riff and make fun of one another in a jaunt across Europe. Locations are blown up, people die, jokes are made, and almost every action trope under the sun is on display throughout its two-hour running time.

Plot armor miles thick surrounds our two heroes as the accuracy of bullets becomes a thing for lesser universes. An indiscriminate Eastern European villain is hell-bent on a small slice of world domination. Beautiful and exotic locations are blown up for the amusement of the audience (I’ve always wondered what a movie about the local government trying to clean up the mess would look like.)

None of it is new or even executed in a way to suggest a modicum of innovation within the genre. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson are both on cruise control here as well, with Reynolds recycling the same character he’s done his whole career while Jackson repeats profanities in such a way to evoke Julius from “Pulp Fiction.” There’s two talented supporting actors as well in Salma Hayek and Gary Oldman, but even they look as if they’re cashing a check.

When you combine these elements together in such a lackluster fashion, the whole spectacle becomes boring. This isn’t to say that there aren’t great films that thrive on the idea of movies as entertainment (look at this summer’s “Baby Driver” for a recent example), but those pictures are made with an intelligence and craftsmanship wholly lacking in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

While I must admit, I cracked a smile during more than one scene in the film, the dominant emotion I felt was boredom. I watched the bright neon clock tucked away in the corner as much as the screen. There was a complete disconnect between me and the internal lives of the characters, and I know this criticism seems a bit unfair when levied at a film titled “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” but the disconnect is still there.

What seems to be even more frustrating is the screenplay’s nod to greater creators (minor characters include Kurosawa and Asimov, a Japanese film director and science fiction author, respectively), as if the script itself is feigning an intelligence it hasn’t earned. Everything is aptly constructed, and the actors are bringing some microscopic level of effort to their roles, but the whole production is as banal as its title.

I believe there’s a subconscious stereotype of a critic within almost every movie-goers mind: snobbish, stuck-up, unwilling to “have fun” at the movies while expecting too much. Some of this is based in reality, but the idea of a critic not willing to watch a movie for the sheer enjoyment of it seems counter-intuitive to the profession of critic itself. Critics criticize because they love the form they’re critiquing. How can the form live up to its highest potential if a society doesn’t hold accountable the form’s errors? It’s not that I didn’t like “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” just because it was “bad.” I’ve seen bad films before and I’ll see them again. I didn’t like it because I know movies are capable of so much more.

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