Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Buddy movies took over the box office for years and then suddenly died off in their frequency. My first big memory of the style was the LETHAL WEAPON films featuring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. They slowly began to lose steam but they were still enjoyable entertainment. Many more movies took on that format and ranged from great to terrible. But they slowly declined.

THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD might change that. It did decent figures at the box office and with its release on DVD this week my guess is word of mouth will have people discovering the film. The film open with Ryan Reynolds as Michael Bryce, one of the best bodyguards working for an elite firm, who has his latest protectee shot before his eyes. Fast forward 2 years and now Bryce is working for a no-level firm handling even less impactful clients. Even his girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Young) has left him as she’s moved up working for Interpol.

Her latest case involves transporting a high profile witness in the international trial of Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), the ruthless dictator of Belarus. Dukhovich has been charged but never convicted because witness always seem to be killed. The witness this time around is professional hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who agrees to testify in return for the release of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) from prison.

Things go askew early on as the convoy transporting Kincaid to The Hague to testify is attacked leaving Amelia and Kincaid on the run. Assuming there is a mole and unable to trust anyone at Interpol Amelia calls Bryce to ask for his help, eventually forcing him into his assistance. When they meet and he recognizes Kincaid they begin to fight until Amelia can stop them. Bryce knows Kincaid is the killer behind several clients his firm once handled. Kincaid knows who Bryce is. Not they set aside their issues with one another long enough to get Kincaid to The Hague in the Netherlands.

It won’t be an easy task as tons of assassins meet them every step of the way in an attempt to take Kincaid out. Sounds like the makings of a hilarious comedy, no? Maybe not but the fact is in the hands of Jackson and Reynolds it is indeed that. And one that is action filled at that.

Reynolds has made a career out of playing smart mouthed characters and rode that to fame when he played Deadpool in 2016. Some might even think of the character here as there is plenty of gunplay, car chases and explosions accompanied by Reynold’s character cracking wise all the time. And yet he is different here. Bryce’s character is troubled by that last incident he blamed on Amelia since she was the only person he shared info with. He plots out every plan in detail before following through. He’s flawed, troubled and yet still the best at what he does.

Jackson is Jackson. Yes, the F bomb is dropped non-stop by him here. His character is more carefree than that of Bryce. Kincaid takes life as it comes, rarely making plans and taking advantage of everything thrown his way be it a set of handcuff keys or a handgun. He has a chance to make a run for it several times but continues to his destination all because of the love he feels for his wife and his desire to see her freed.

The two characters combine like oil and water as they cajole one another while on the run towards The Hague. Both have moments where they save the other and both have skills that are similar but profoundly different in how they handle the violence that comes their way. How anyone could think that they could possibly succeed is beyond the imagination of most viewers. But those of us who have seen a number of movies know the outcome far in advance. Those same people will figure out one of the major plot points as well.

It would be easy to believe that a majority of stunt men made tons of money working on this film. The same would hold true for those who handle pyro techniques. There are enough explosions here to make you wonder how it has affected the ozone layer and enough gunplay to make you wonder why the industry trash talks weapons.

The end result is a fun movie with plenty of action. It also has enough laughs in it to will require you to keep a finger on the pause button to let you finish a laugh now and then. It’s another great example of what Reynolds and Jackson do best and that’s a good thing. For me it’s a movie I know I’ll want to pull out every now and then to watch.
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With all the talk about how movies aren’t faring well at the box office it seems a shame that so little is spent on great movies while tons of advertising dollars go into big budget blockbusters that bust no blocks. Sadly those small movies get a marginal release with little to no promotional budget. They might make back the miniscule budget they began with but they don’t take in big bucks. What makes this worse is that there are times, as with WIND RIVER, when the movie itself it much better than the teen oriented mega flick. It’s hard to believe it was just 2-3 months ago this film was in theaters.

Jeremy Renner stars as Cory Lambert, a Fish and Wildlife agent whose main job is to track down predators that are affecting the people in the area he works in. That area is in Wyoming, the Wind River Reservation in particular. The film opens with his tracking and killing a wolf targeting flocks of sheep. When he goes to collect the wolf he finds another set of tracks which lead him to the body of an Indian girl named Natalie (Kelsey Asbille). He calls in the tribal police and then moves on.

Cory picks his son up from his ex-wife. Nothing in particular is mentioned but there is a tension between them that ties into their past. It’s his weekend and she’s off to apply for a new job elsewhere. Called in to help investigate the body he leaves his son on the reservation with his ex’s parents.

The FBI has been called in since the murder occurred on federal land and they send in Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olson). Fairly new and arriving from a gathering in Las Vegas she isn’t prepared for the harshly cold weather of the area. Borrowing clothes they head to the body. She calls for a rape kit and Cory explains to her the painful way Natalie died. Twenty degree below weather, running full bore with no shoes or gloves her lungs would have crystalized causing her to choke on her own blood.

The official autopsy can’t actually call this a homicide as to the reason she died and all might end with no help here, something those on the reservation are used to. The discovery of a second body, that of a man, changes things around and Banner is allowed to stay and continue her investigation. With little to go on Banner continues to sift for clues while Cory tells her she’s missing the big picture.

As someone who tracks predators he tells her to not look for clues but to follow the paths that are left behind. Using this method is what led them to the second body. Now as they investigate deeper they confront a sense of apathy from those on the reservation, a place that offers little hope. And as the pair get to know one another, Cory reveals the secret he’s kept to himself to Banner.

The evidence begins to mount and the clues keep coming. They may be minor but they’re enough to warrant talking to others who might be involved. With each piece they pick up in their search for the killer or killers their lives are placed in danger as well. By the end not everyone will walk away and no one will be left unscarred in one way or another.

What makes this movie work above all else is the performance given by Renner in the lead role here. I’ve watched him act in a number of films but this performance seems so different from any I’ve seen him play. His character is believable and pained, but not to the point that it prevents him from accomplishing what he sets out to do. Instead he grabs on to that pain and it gets him through as well as allowing him to retain memories that some might lose.

Olson does a fine job as well but her character is secondary to that of Renner. You’re never quite sure if Jane is too wet behind the ears to understand the best way to handle things of if she’s simply a fish out of water in this element, a wintery snow scape far removed from her Fort Lauderdale home base. And yet in some moments she seems to know completely what she is doing. Also great is Graham Greene as Ben, the Reservation law officer who gripes about the government never sending help while being grateful for the help he does receive.

The heart of this film reads like an old mystery in that the mystery actually IS the centerpiece. Sure there are some character questions that surround it but the mystery itself is what matters. We’re offered clues to solve what happened and some may guess before the film ends. The entertainment lies in trying to figure out what’s going on and who did it. In the end it makes for a movie that offers brutal reality and a story that holds your interest from start to finish.