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Unlicensed to Kill

David Appleby/Lionsgate

The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (2021)

“The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” finds Ryan Reynolds reprising the role of dimwitted Michael Bryce, who suffers an identity crisis due to his professional license being revoked and goes on a sabbatical in Italy per the suggestion of his therapist (Rebecca Front). However, the serenity is short lived as Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) from the 2017 original rudely disrupts to summon his help rescuing his former client and her husband, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson).

Just as the villain last time was a Belarusian autocrat (Gary Oldman), this time the evil-doer is a Greek billionaire (Antonio Banderas) hellbent on destroying an entire continent in response to European Union sanctions on his country. Beneath the veneer of an irreverent action flick, with juvenile dialogue and excessive violence, is a calculating Hollywood production that prizes political correctness over plausibility. Just as the casting seemingly adheres to some corporate mandate for diversity and inclusion, the plot proves inoffensive to audiences in lucrative international territories when you really think about it. The lack of Asian presence is unsurprising, but we should probably be thankful the screenwriters have refrained from resorting to the yellow peril trope. Still, why have Ms. Hayek mispronounce Michael Bryce’s name throughout other than to make fun of her accent?

There’s a lot of mindless destruction of property as well as gratuitous trading of punches and gunfire, just as traumatic childhood events are mined for humor. As Michael flatly recounts how gelato becomes an emotional trigger, the slow-motion flashback accompanied by Atli Örvarsson’s melancholic score casts an air of Lifetime Movie of the Week melodrama to the proceedings. The tonally complex scene hits all the intended notes, which doesn’t make it any less sociopathic. If a high-body-count action flick doesn’t even have rudimentary empathy for its protagonist, where’s the humanity?


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