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THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD: 3 STARS. “a silly but entertaining movie.”

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” mixes and matches all the usual action movie flourishes—exotic locations, violence, jokes and romance—but succeeds because of the match between its leads, Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.

Reynolds is Michael Bryce, former executive protection hot shot. He was a man who handled security for the world’s richest and most dangerous people until one of his clients didn’t make it home alive. Losing his AAA status affected him personally and professionally. “I don’t really do high-value anymore,” he says. “These days I’m more in the coked out attorney business.”

Jackson is contract killer Darius Kincaid. With hundreds of notches on his belt he is one of the world’s most deadly killers, but makes a deal with Interpol to testify at The Hague against a former Belorussian dictator (Gary Oldman) in exchange for the release of his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek) from a Dutch prison. Trouble is, there’s a leak at Interpol and the transport, lead by Interpol agent and Bryce’s ex Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung), is attacked.

Kinciad and Roussel escape, but to sidestep any more leaks and get to The Hague they realize they must bring in someone, “completely out of the loop.” Enter Bryce, who takes the gig because he wants his elite status back. “You’re not good at anything except keeping people alive,” says Roussel.

Cue the bullets, explosions and one-liners.

They say casting is everything and in the case of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” it’s hard to disagree. The story is a clichénado, a swirling mish mash of countdown clocks, car crashes and a hitman with a conscience, that feels like we’ve seen it before and better in other movies. Then there’s a romantic subplot—apparently without love all the killing and mayhem have no meaning—that gets in the way of the fun stuff.

What changes things up is some clever casting. Reynolds’s crack comic timing and Jackson’s swagger are well tested commodities that reap benefits here. Add to that Selma Hayek’s foul mouthed but funny Sonia and Oldham’s scowling dictator and you have an all-star cast that transforms the so-so material.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is a silly but entertaining movie. It works when it shouldn’t and just when your attention starts to wander it draws you back in. A philosophical twist—”Who is more wicked he who kills evil m******f*****s or he who protects them?”—doesn’t go anywhere but the final shot before the credits marries romance and ultra violence in a way that made me forgive the film’s previous transgressions.

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