The unusual level of vitriol afforded Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard by most critics will likely baffle general audiences. Most of whom will, surely, like it. More or less. This is the knowingly vulgar sequel to 2017’s The Hitman’s Bodyguard. Second time around, the rules are much the same. Every other sentence in Tom O’Connor and Murphys Brandon and Philip’s script is loaded with a hefty handful of f**ks. There’s cartoon violence, gratuitous bloodshed and stereotypes to make a seventies sitcom star blush. That said, the cast give it some welly and the budget goes as far as a cool fifty million can. Make of this what you will but it’s really not that bad.
Doing well to overcome a crudely sketched parody of a role, Salma Hayek provides Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard – a truly dreadful title, no? – with its unhinged heart and soul. It’s Hayek’s bravura that makes part two an improvement on one. She plays Sonia: the, formerly incarcerated, wife of Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson, on autopilot, as before). Sonia wants nothing more than to start a family and so is disheartened by her present failure to conceive. Sure enough, it’s not for want of trying. Rambunctiously. If only, she demurs, her vagina weren’t so tight. When Darius is kidnapped by mafia mobsters – on their honeymoon no less – Sonia turns to Ryan Reynolds’ wet blanket of a bodyguard – Michael Bryce – for help. Not that there’s any sense she really needs it. Sonia is one bad ass motherf**ker. Aye, aye, aye, the lingo’s infectious.
Michael is still mourning the loss of his triple-A bodyguard status as the film opens. The one he lost by saving Kincaid’s life last time around. Later, we will learn of the pressure imposed on him by his hugely successful father – you’ll never guess who plays him – but first comes therapy. Having ‘graduated’ psychological intervention – watch out for a wry turn from Rebecca Front – Michael is mid siesta as Sonia and Darius burst back into his life. A hop, skip and a random leap of the imagination down the line and the trio find themselves recruited by Frank Grillo’s Interpol agent Bobby. Their job? To play a key role in bringing down Greek supervillain Aristotle Papadopoulous (a defiantly un-Greek Antonio Banderas) before he can all but destroy Europe. Papadopolous seeks to punish the EU for imposing sanctions on Greece, with all the cultural relevance to today of BlackBerry smart phones. Nonetheless, the stakes have never been higher for the bodyguard, the hitman and his wife.
It’s hogwash. A flimsy, xenophobic platform for game stars who do, at least, appear to be having fun. The gag count is slight and dependent on repetition to sustain anything like a hearty rate. Why mine a laugh from one dream sequence when you can do it twice? And yet, there is something here. A frisson. The odd chuckle. A rib tickling wince. It’s success by blunt force and finds buoyancy in the nascent chemistry of Hayek, Reynolds and Jackson, even if the latter clearly couldn’t care either way. There’s a neat running joke that sees Bryce refuse to touch a gun for much of the film – ‘I’m on sabbatical!’ – and Hayek brings genuine gusto to the sheer lunacy of her character’s deluded sense of self. An off shoot that pays homage to Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn flops but the last laugh’s a corker.
All unfolds across a tourist’s guide to sun kissed Europe. Italy! Bulgaria! Croatia! You’re either a posh Brit or a dodgy foreigner and only the transatlantians can save the day. Praise be. Hughes directs with just enough verve to bring energy to the film’s innumerable brawls, car chases and random explosions, each of which beef up the pulpy fun. There’s still too much death but the presentation is a touch less vainglorious than before. Which is a win.