‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ goes in one ear and out the other

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Grade: 1.5/5.0

Ryan Reynolds is checking in for his droll summer double feature. “Free Guy” arrives in August — zzz, from the looks of the trailers — but first on the docket is “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” the sequel to 2017’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.” Tying all three together: his typical turn playing America’s most popular typecast beta male.

Reynolds is back in a miserable flick, and the wasting indecision has been let loose. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is the follow up to “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” insofar as you only need to know there’s a hitman and a bodyguard, and they don’t like each other. This time around, Salma Hayek — a ray of light — plays the titular hitman’s titular, foul-mouthed wife, Sonia Kincaid. 

It’s hard to take this film seriously: Greek terrorist Aristotle Papadopoulos (a sad day for Antonio Banderas) wants to blow up the European power grid by inserting a drill into a single telecommunications hub in the middle of the ocean floor. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard,” meanwhile, scrubs past its drabbest elements — namely a very serious, very mundane and very American Interpol agent, Bobby (Frank Grillo), desperate to leave Europe for… Boston — for a porny exhibition of chases, sky-rocketing body counts and pulpy, splattering climaxes of blood mixed with what looks like watermelon. It’s as if the creative team knew nobody would remember the first one; the poor digital effects (are they deliberate?) are the biggest indicator that this is a sequel.

Clearly, however, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” isn’t interested in much more than a raunchy time. There are some good bits peeking out of the gore, though the humor lands shy of smart, even considering a briefly inventive Morgan Freeman cameo. A smart sequel is typically a tall task, but impossible for one so gleefully nostalgic about its predecessor. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” picks up more or less where the first one left off — plot is again a vehicle for cracks and thrills — with a dejected Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) lamenting the loss of his bodyguard licensure to his therapist, who suggests a sabbatical in Capris (“like the pants,” we’re told a couple times), Italy. No guns, no body guarding. Just pepper spray and a trusty pen knife. 

Not five minutes in, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” chooses violence. Apparently a sabbatical is too boring for the film to hold back a jaunty, messily established shootout between a love sick Sonia and a crowd of mobsters, who are holding Darius (Samuel L. Jackson). The rest of the film unzips haltingly while country-hopping across Europe, getting caught on itself over and over as Michael and Sonia rescue Darius, who then get wrapped up in Interpol’s mission to stop Papadopolous. A couple scenes are memorable, even slick — there are some lithium-inspired hallucinations — but the rest of the movie falls away. “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is forgettable, its plot disappearing over a very short horizon. 

It doesn’t help, either, that the cast — minus Hayek, only because her role is a new arrival to the franchise — seems resigned to this fate. Reynolds and Jackson have been put to work in a sequel to a functional movie, their design robotic. The script, by writers Tom O’Connor and Brandon and Phillip Murphy, meekly prods the two along, satisfied with the images these actors are known for. Reynolds resumes some blubbering, confusion and occasional indignation, while Jackson repeats that unprintable word he’s made his own, as well as a few looks of sweet revenge.

In some ways, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” appears aware of just how much a lame duck it is. The title’s double possessive, for starters, is absurd. Yet, if that’s an appetizer, the film doesn’t have the personality to resurrect consciousness, a main course. There’s no charisma in this formulaic prepubescism. Watching paint dry would be more fulfilling — at least paint sticks. 

Dominic Marziali covers film. Contact him at [email protected].