‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’ Review: Stay for the Hitman’s Wife, Avert Your Eyes for Everything Else

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The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (CREDIT: David Appleby/Lionsgate)

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Frank Grillo, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman

Director: Patrick Hughes

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rating: R for A Generally Violent and Highly Sexual Lifestyle

Release Date: June 16, 2021 (Theaters)

Bodyguard Michael Bryce’s therapist has advised him to take a sabbatical … BUT OBVIOUSLY THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! He’s the lead character in an action comedy sequel in which he’s the constant victim of physical and emotional abuse, after all. But what if The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard were just about him having a relaxing vacation? Honestly? I’d check it out. But of course that’s a tough sell in a summer blockbuster season. But that doesn’t mean the action has to be quite as relentless as it is. It’s hard to laugh when guns are constantly being fired from all over everywhere! Thank God for Salma Hayek and her occasionally kooky line readings.

If you haven’t seen the original Hitman’s Bodyguard, pretty much all you got to know is that Bryce was left traumatized during his time protecting super-notorious hitman Darius Kincaid. Considering that Bryce is played by Ryan Reynolds and Kincaid is played by Samuel L. Jackson, it’s not hard to immediately buy into this dynamic. The former’s exasperated quippiness and the latter’s dangerously cackling coolheadedness make for maximum combustibility. If you like your comedy with a constant background threat of deadly sniper shots and exploding cars, then this is the movie for you. But for me, that’s pretty much exactly the wrong energy for a fun time at the cinema, and I imagine I’m not alone in that preference.

But it’s not a total wash, and the new interloping title inhabitant is the reason why. Kincaid’s wife Sonia (Hayek) is the one who “hires” Bryce this time around, and that hiring is very much in quotation marks because the reason she thinks that her husband would ever want this guy’s services again is based on a profoundly stupid misunderstanding. But somehow in the midst of everything aggravating going on, Hayek manages to have some fun. In the few instances of downtime and introspection, she manages to puncture the moment with her loopy approach to social niceties and life in general. Most of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is dangerous and headache-inducing. Sonia Kincaid at least is dangerous and chuckle-against-your-better-judgment-inducing.

The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is Recommended If You Like: Deadly projectiles whizzing by as you go about your day

Grade: 2 out of 5 Gelatos

This Is a Movie Review: I Have No Idea How to Make Sense of ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,’ But At Least It’s Vaguely Enjoyable

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CREDIT: Laurie Sparham/Disney Enterprises

This review was originally posted on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Misty Copeland

Directors: Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG for Mildly Scary Rodents

Release Date: November 2, 2018

In The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mr. Stahlbaum’s (Matthew Macfayden) wife has recently passed away, so now he wants to make sure that he and his children are able to keep it together. What does he believe is the best way to do so? Why, dancing, of course! They head off to a Christmas ball, where he insists to his headstrong daughter Clara (Mackenzie Foy) that she must save one dance for him. When they arrive, she has no interest in dancing, but by the end, the entire Stahlbaum family is dancing together. How does she end up changing her mind? I guess it must have something to do with her impromptu journey through a magical, Narnia-like realm, but I’m not sure show. This movie resembles a hero’s journey in which lessons are learned, but it is not particularly clear what those lessons are, beyond the simple “be brave” and “appearances can be deceiving.” But regardless, Mr. Stahlbaum’s wish for dancing is fulfilled, so … mission accomplished?

Beyond Clara’s internal fortitude, the main potential attraction in the Four Realms is Keira Knightley’s weirdly affected performance as the Sugar Plum Fairy. As one of the leaders of the realms, she sounds like a body snatcher doing an impression of a ditzy supermodel. She speaks in baby-talk neologisms that make her sound like a character from Rugrats. The way she says “Oh, poo” is transcendent.

Basically, what it boils down to is this: I have no idea how closely this film resembles the original 1816 short story, and I do not care to look it up. (I’m guessing the plot doesn’t matter all that much in the ballet.) The Nutcracker and the Four Realms lacks a sense of of clear purpose and meaning and comes with a psychedelic edge that often goes along with misbegotten fantasy family movies. I would not expect such a surreal flavor from either of its co-directors (Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston), but accidental surrealism is often the best surrealism.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is Recommended If You Like: I have absolutely no clue.

Grade: 3 out of 5 Mice

This Is a Movie Review: Going in Style

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This review was originally published on News Cult in April 2017.

Starring: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin

Director: Zach Braff

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: April 7, 2017

Release Date: PG-13 for Shooting Blanks in One Way and Not Shooting Blanks in Another

There is a cottage industry of our finest living octogenarian thespians behaving badly, whether living it up in Vegas or spending spring break with their grandkids fishing for tail. Going in Style at first glance appears the next entry in this genre, what with its premise of retirees making their last big mark by pulling off a bank robbery. As these old coots throw on their Rat Pack masks, are we supposed to be thinking, “Somebody’s watched Point Break one too many times”? Not exactly. This is not a tale of wish fulfillment debauchery. Instead, Going in Style takes its opening cue from much more Oscar-friendly territory (as well as the 1979 original of the same name starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg).

Longtime friends and factory co-workers Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Al (Alan Arkin) are facing a variety of ills: foreclosure for Joe, kidney failure for Willie, and disappearing pensions for all three. They do not vocalize a sense of economic betrayal from their country, but the subtext is clear. This is the same message as last year’s neo-Western Hell or High Water: when even the local banks are strictly aligned with the global monied class, robbery is all that those left behind can turn to. Going in Style mostly avoids that bleakness, though not at first. The first 15 minutes or so are all about underscoring the piling up of debt and very real threat of homelessness for decent folks who have put in decades of honest employment.

But with the codgers at its center, a depressing consistency would be truly beyond the pale. The dialogue acknowledges that safety net, as these intrepid thieves figure that even if they do get caught, they will at least be guaranteed a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than they are used to. There is a deep well of fantastic realism, or realistic fantasy, as it were, at play. We know Joe, Willie, and Al will get away with it, and it is essentially a victimless crime. Their temptation into a solution of crime is presented less as a trip to the dark side and more as open-mindedness and ingenuity. But surely the loss of millions cannot be so easily brushed off.

It is probably not necessary to take too harsh a moral stance against Going in Style, as I imagine that its target audience understands that stealing is wrong and heists are not so easily pulled off in real life. But it would be preferable if the film had a more clearly discernible message. Is it advocating for getting what you’re owed by any means necessary, becoming a Robin Hood of sorts, or actually just prescribing robbery in extreme circumstances? As it stands, it is a whimsical wisp propelled along by plenty of capable people that tiptoes around some explosive territory.

Going in Style is Recommended If You Like: Hell or High Water but thought it was missing a dance scene set to “Single Ladies”

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 “Young Men”