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Movie Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard


The Hitman's Bodyguard is a buddy movie from Patrick Hughes, the director who brought us Red Hill and The Expendables 3. Loosely based on the same dynamic as Midnight Run, we are quickly introduced to prolific hitman, Darius Kincaid, who is paired with an elite bodyguard, Michael Bryce, commissioned to get his new client to a trial at the International Court of Justice. Fresh from Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds has repositioned his star alongside the action genre, allowing him to headline a hard actioner opposite screen veteran and Tarantino regular, Samuel L. Jackson.

While their chemistry is far from magical, their constant bickering and one-upmanship forms the core of the film's intrinsic entertainment value. Trading on these two established stars, The Hitman's Bodyguard leverages much of their trademark style with a smooth-talking Reynolds and a straight-talking Jackson. While it's the sort of movie terrain you'd expect to see Jackie Chan flexing his mix of martial arts and incredible stunt work in, we are relegated to watching two big shots mouth off. To their credit, Reynolds and Jackson tap into previous roles to add texture, trying to inject charm and spruce up some pretty generic and egotistical characters.

While it aims to get by on action and comedy, the tone is rickety and the comedy isn't polished, leaving a lot of responsibility on the action component. The Hitman's Bodyguard's biggest challenge is its struggle to determine whether it's a tongue-in-cheek or dead serious action film. The intense violence and strong use of language is frequent enough to suggest we are bearing witness to a fierce action movie, yet the situational comedy, flippant attitude, constant tussling and silly scenarios say otherwise. As a result, it's difficult to get in on the joke or feel the full weight of the suspense, making this a mixed bag in terms of entertainment value.

"Say Double Team 2 again. We double dare ya."

We coast on the star quality of the co-leads and supporting character actors, Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek. Oldman is okay as a hellbent Eastern European war criminal in Vladislav Dukhovich while Hayek gets tough (and kinda icky) as the no-nonsense Sonia. Reynolds is Mr. Wisecrack again, while Jackson covers his age well with a little help from a bullet. While almost any movie would be lucky to have this ensemble, it just feels lacklustre with each of the stars delivering average performances. Perhaps the film's generic quality lent itself to middling performances, yet despite their attempts to engender passion and genuine sparkle – it just falls flat. The egomania parade makes it difficult to identify with the characters, making it a fairly alienating series of stand-offs.

The Hitman's Bodyguard is a competently filmed actioner, yet struggles to justify the inclusion of its stellar cast. The seesawing tone leaves the film dangling in an uncomfortable middle ground and diminishes the overall impact. The snarky characters are softened by the actors, but are ultimately difficult to get behind. The frequent violence and bad language isn't justified, cheapening the final product and offsetting the comedy. Then, the film is generic and struggles to distinguish itself from a slew of better action comedy buddy movies... making it more of the same.

The bottom line: Forgettable

 
Talking Movies with Spling - Below Her Mouth, Wonder Woman and The Hollars


Spling reviews Below Her Mouth, Wonder Woman and The Hollars as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
Movie Review: Baby Driver


Edgar Wright is the British director behind cult classics such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. His ambitious, colourful, quirky, playful and imaginative films are geared towards laughs and thrills and Baby Driver is no different. Always unpredictable, fun and visually-compelling, Wright has added a heist thriller to his growing list of shiny, wonderful films. The title Baby Driver, probably should have been Baby, Driver but that would have made too much sense when you consider his appetite for quirkiness.

We follow the journey of Baby, a young getaway driver, who finds himself in too deep after being coerced into doing one last job for a crime boss. Ansel Elgort did a great job in The Fault in Our Stars, turning in a sweet, suave and instantly likable former basketball player. Instead of being an amputee, he's got another impairment that forces him to listen to music continuously. While the earbuds remain firmly planted in his ears, this affinity to music is a driving force in Baby Driver as it becomes infused with every aspect from the film. The music weaves itself into the film as editing and sound merge seamlessly to create a fresh, zippy atmosphere similar to the anything's possible mood of La La Land but with fast cars and thugs.

Elgort's performance makes him a James Dean for the here and now. He's not as enigmatic or windswept, but oozes cool in his demeanor and go-his-own-way attitude. An unassuming and likable lead, he also imbues a natural warmth. He's the frontman of a strong ensemble including: Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, Lily James and Kevin Spacey. Hamm and González play off one another as a sex-fueled Bonnie & Clyde, Foxx is the resident tough guy, James is a sweet waitress with a heart of pure gold while Spacey gets to take his Horrible Bosses character underground.

Baby Driver

"Yeah, sure... I was named after the Bieber song."

Baby Driver is a heist movie with action, thrills and style... generating heat through beautifully choreographed car chases, tense drama and a living soundtrack. While it generally goes from 0-60 in seconds flat, there's room for cruise control when it comes to exploring Baby's closest ties. His relationship with his foster father is always a charming detour as we get a feel for his childhood, while the budding '50s style romance gives the film a naive undertone. The nostalgic music is reminiscent of the mix tape from Guardians of the Galaxy, but it has a much more inextricable quality.

Edgar Wright has unfurled yet another suave and masterful tapestry of sound, visuals and dialogue. As a crime thriller it moves with a swagger and furious spirit, which is largely redeemed by the starry-eyed romance at its core. Baby Driver's full of free wheelin' moxie and jam-packed with wink-wink fun, adding a fresh dimension to the "one last job" heist movie and making its experimental sound design and editing techniques seem effortless. Edgar Wright fans will appreciate this funky new genre blend, while new initiates will be impressed by the dynamic visuals and swirling blend of music styles that manage to stay on-point.

Baby Driver does go into overdrive as the third act turns into a stairway of climactic highs. While peppered with violence, the intensity is allayed by Wright's tongue-in-cheek sense of humour. It does have a few lulls, but these are smoothed over by the film's varied overriding qualities. If you want to see something cool, punchy and fresh, look no further than Baby Driver.

The bottom line: Wonderful


 
Talking Movies with Spling - Baby Driver, Things to Come and The Ticket


Spling reviews Baby Driver, Things to Come and The Ticket as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Catch Talking Movies on Fridays at 8:20am and Saturdays at 8:15am every week on Fine Music Radio.

 
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