Shamed protective service hotshot Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds; Deadpool), is browbeaten into protecting and transporting his mortal enemy, the god-respecting, psychotic assassin Darius Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson; Pulp Fiction) to The Hague to testify against a ruthless dictator accused of war crimes.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard Starring Ryan Reynolds & Samuel L Jackson

The Hitman's Bodyguard The Hitmans Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson
Photo Credit: Jack English-Summit Entertainment Lionsgate

Directed by Patrick Hughes (Expendables 3), The Hitman’s Bodyguard (THB) is a nostalgic refreshing trip back to the buddy comedies of the ’80s and ’90s where discordant mismatched heroes are thrown into a partnership that’s cats and dogs, apples and oranges, or in this case, the law abiding Bryce and the rule breaking felon Kincaid, to depose a demented bad boy that kills for fun and has fun killing.

Since it’s a buddy actioner, we know there’ll be good guys, bad guys, chases, fights, crazy leaps from buildings, sit-com one-liners and explosions that are all intertwined with soppy life lessons where ultimately each partner would take a bullet for the other.

An important aspect of any buddy film is the chemistry between the actors portraying the two unlikely partners and a director knows it’s working when actors begin to naturally and extemporaneously blast out comedy quips and foul-mouthed insults at each other.

Ryan Reynolds shares, “Sam and I have many moments where we just get to play, and that’s important to creating the unique bond between our characters. Sam’s good at improv, and that’s my background too, we’re out there having as much fun as possible.”

Combative Ryan Reynolds

The Hitman's Bodyguard The Hitmans Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson
Photo Credit: Jack English-Summit Entertainment Lionsgate

Before Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien‘s wu xia epic The Assassin (2015) came out, kung fu movie fans were warned that the 105-minute film had five minutes of fights. How could a wu xia film be good without lots of amazing sword action? I was shocked, it was great. The handful of fights were short because a honed assassin would be fast and  efficient. Each fight revealed the emotional intent behind it and moved the film forward.

Bryce’s handful of combative punch-ups were similarly brief, neat and sweet, where the pacing between the fights revealed more about the character making the next fight more meaningful to the audience. What’s refreshing about Ryan Reynolds, is though you can see him in many of the fight shots, he hasn’t advertised that he did of all of his own stunts.

The Hitman's Bodyguard The Hitmans Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson
Courtesy of Summit Entertainment and Millenium Media

In Hollywood, when an actor throws a punch or does a reaction to being hit, on paper, those are considered stunts. Thus if an actor says they did their own stunts, semantically they did, but not in the way moviegoers assume. Furthermore, with advances in FX technology, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to determine if an actor is even in a scene.

This is why Keanu Reeves is respected by the stuntman industry. During The Matrix Reloaded (2003), stuntman Chad Stahelski (John Wick director) did all the fight scenes and then in post-production, Stahelski’s face was digitally removed and replaced by Reeves’ face. During the shooting of all the fights, rather than remaining in his trailer, Reeves was always on set cheering on the stuntmen and standing-in whenever needed.

At the 2004 Taurus World Stunt Awards, Keanu Reeves received a Taurus Honorary Award for Action Movie Star. After screening highlights of his stunts, Reeves came out and said none of them were him and gave all the credit to the award presenter Stahelski.

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson Fights

The Hitman's Bodyguard The Hitmans Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson
Photo Credit: Jack English-Summit Entertainment Lionsgate

Though the crux of The Hitman’s Bodyguard was the lawless and turbulent fun, Ryan Reynolds also had to focus on some intense physical work, especially because he likes to do as many of his own stunts as allowable.

He quips, “I’ve done a few films with Greg Powell (stunt supervisor; Avengers: Age of Ultron) and you want impress him so you have to work as hard as you can. The only problem is that sometimes I push myself a little too hard and forget that I’m 39 years old and cement hurts.”

The British-born Powell notes that the biggest challenge was that for all the fights, albeit short ones, they had to find a way to keep each one fresh, different and fun.

He explains, “We began by working with Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson to match their characters’ fighting styles up with their divergent personalities. Bryce dealing blows with clean precision while Sameul L Jackson is more gut-driven in his reactions.”

The Hitman's Bodyguard The Hitmans Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson
Courtesy of Summit Entertainment and Millenium Media

The fights aren’t fancy and most sequences are snap-edit combinations of grabs, blocks, breaks, tosses, smacks and whacks, and are shot with dizzying camera movements and shifting tight angles. This method of shooting fights is frustrating to watch as you can’t see what’s going on and close shots are intended to hide an actor’s inability to fight and for ease of using stunt doubles.

Yet they work in The Hitman’s Bodyguard because the fights are short and Bryce’s why are we fighting? facial expressions add to the comedic sparing.

Funny Moments in The Hitman’s Bodyguard

The Hitman's Bodyguard The Hitmans Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson
Courtesy of Summit Entertainment and Millenium Media

Bryce and Kincaid have a gun fight against each other that was influenced by Christian Bale‘s finale fight in Equilibrium (2002), except in The Hitman’s Bodyguard, the jocular way when the guns go off as Bryce keeps his visiting lady friend out of the firing line makes the fight look cute.

In a hardware store, Bryce swings an axe at the lead fighting villain and is left holding the axe handle in utter confusion as the thug continues his vicious attacks. Yet it all leads to a funny payoff at the end of the fight.

Another cracking scene is while Bryce is complaining to a street vendor that he’s had it up to here with Kincaid, in the background, cars are screeching, gunfire blazing and everything’s exploding all over the place as the villains are trying take out Kincaid. Even as an air bound car flies past his body, Ryan Reynolds as Bryce doesn’t flinch.

Make sure to watch the whole movie because there’s an outtake near the end of the film’s credits showing Reynolds’ discipline of holding a single facial expression for two minutes in front of the rolling camera, because due to unforeseen humorous background events, they couldn’t start filming the had it up to here action scene. It’s such a precious moment.

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