Our two guys are Ryan Reynolds as uptight bodyguard Michael Bryce and Samuel L. Jackson as ruthless hitman Darius Kincaid, bickering and bonding as they travel through Europe to Belarus, where Kincaid is meant to testify against a tyrant (Gary Oldman) on trial for war crimes.
Actual Belarussians may be bemused by this plot point, but it hardly needs saying that anyone seeking insight into Eastern European politics should look elsewhere. On the most immediate level, the plot is an excuse for actorly showboating and action sequences, the highlight being an exciting speedboat chase through the canals of Amsterdam. The gags are cast in a wilfully tasteless mode intended to be liberating, though some are hard to stomach: one involving a farting woman in prison might be the nadir.
Outwardly it’s all as mindless as can be, yet Australian director Patrick Hughes has a knack for provocative allegory in the guise of genre, as he showed in his 2010 debut Red Hill, in which an Indigenous killer (Tom E. Lewis) emerges from the past to wreak vengeance on a significantly-named country town.
Hughes’ exact sympathies in Red Hill were hard to fathom, but in this film only the mildest irony accompanies his support for gung-ho Americans over hypocritical Europeans and for lowbrow entertainment over art cinema. It might even be more than coincidence that Oldman is made up with spectacles and pepper-and-salt beard to resemble the cerebral Austrian director Michael Haneke, who rails against irresponsible violence in movies while freely indulging the cruel side of his own imagination.
In this light, the film’s moral spokesperson is Kincaid, a jolly, chuckling devil whose assurance gradually gets the better of Bryce’s qualms. The joke is that Kincaid experiences none of the traditional melancholy of screen hitmen – he’s totally fulfilled in his work, which he shares with a soulmate (Salma Hayek) whose equal love of ultra-violence is demonstrated in cartoonish flashback.
By the end Kincaid is not just a buddy but a guru, furnishing Bryce with wise relationship advice and general life guidance, much as Tom Cruise as a similarly Nietzschean killer did for the taxi driver played by Jamie Foxx in Michael Mann’s Collateral.
Bodyguard” took the top spot at the box office with a meager $10 million, followed by “Annabelle: Creation” at $7 million and the disappointing debut of “Leap!,” the newest animated feature which limped into third place with just $4.7 million.
Yes, it’s August, schools are back in session or about to be, and maybe families were trying to use their last school-free weekend to do family activities. But how can a weekend be so putrid that the top 12 movies domestically were unable to earn a combined $50 million?
The last time the top 12 failed to cover $50?
September 21-23 of 2001, when a measly $43 million was generated in ticket sales just weeks after the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
That weekend more than 15 years ago, the Keanu Reeves-led movie “Hardball” took home the top domestic box office numbers with just $8 million over the three-day weekend.
August always seems to be a slow month, with studios choosing to limp out failed attempts of summer blockbusters that just aren’t worth the big summer release and marketing campaigns.
Usually the August and September months are dominated by R-rated action movies like “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” and horror movies with small production budgets that studios hope to make a nice profit.
I imagine the box office for Labor Day weekend will be even worse, as no new major releases are scheduled.
In fact, the movie with the largest screen release scheduled for this weekend is “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which is getting a 700-screen re-release to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
I don’t blame the studios. It’s a holiday, and most people are not thinking about spending Labor Day going to the movies, especially if the weather is nice.
With a Sept. 8 release, I expect the remake of the Stephen King classic “IT” to rejuvenate a stagnant box office, despite the R-rating.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” enters the fray Sept. 22 and should score some box office dollars, being a sequel to the popular first movie in the franchise that made $128 million domestically in February 2015.
Though he makes his return in an R-rated movie, Tom Cruise is back on the big screen Sept. 29 for “American Made,” where he plays a pilot who smuggles drugs into America.
Cruise is hoping to rebound from the disaster that was “The Mummy” reboot.
It may be challenging to succeed at the box office with an R-rated movie, but Cruise brings enough star power to the screen that “American Made” could be a surprise box office hit.
The box office certainly needs something to reinvigorate such a stagnant summer.