By Chaz Lipp

The Lowdown: Violent, fast-paced, but graced by a refreshingly sappy side, this late summer trifle gets by on the chemistry between its leads.

In The Hitman’s Bodyguard director Patrick Hughes bets everything on the viability of the Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson pairing. Luckily there’s good chemistry between the two stars, because the plotting is painfully routine. The last time we heard from Hughes, he was helming the third (and poorest) of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables series. Those movies (the sequels, at least) were meant to be barely-updated renderings of the glory years of macho ’80s action. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is also an ’80s-style throwback, this time to the Lethal Weapon-style buddy picture.

Jackson’s carefree Darius Kincaid is the top hitman in all of hitmandom. He knows some serious dirt that could potentially bring down genocidal dictator Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman, playing it as straight as a ruler). Reynolds’ Michael Bryce is similarly renown in his own field—personal protection for high-profile clients. He’s tasked with guarding Darius, safely delivering him to the U.K. court where he will testify against Dukhovich. Turns out there’s bad blood between the two. (Spoiler alert): Michael’s fall from “triple-A” grace (a self-imposed rating) was, in part, Darius’ doing. Can he temper his bitterness in order to fulfill his assignment?

Hughes stages some exciting, if characterless, action scenes along the way. But it’s Darius’ notions on the importance of love and romance that actually carry the film. He met his wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek), in the midst of a barroom brawl that rivals (for comedic over-the-topness) the one in Airplane! (when Striker met Lorraine amidst vicious Girl Scouts). Now Darius is convinced the only thing that really matters is having someone to love; it’s what keeps him ticking. And much of Bodyguard is given over Darius advising Michael on his love life. For years, Michael blamed his downfall on ex-girlfriend and current Interpol officer Amelia (Élodie Yung). Whatever hard feelings exist between he and Michael, Darius just wants to see his frenemy reunited with his true love.

Bottom line: The Hitman’s Bodyguard is just barely loopy enough to be recommendable for anyone seeking an unchallenging, two-hour lark at the multiplex. The story is boring formula, but the cast is having too much for fun it to be a total washout. And stay for the closing credits. Not only is there a pretty funny outtake, even better is a credible old-school R&B tune written and sung by Samuel L. Jackson that plays over the end credits.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard images: Lionsgate Films

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