The Hitman’s Bodyguard: Witless protection

Hollywood’s going to get the wrong idea.

It doesn’t matter that action-comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” has zero major competition at the box office or was released in a month where studio films go to die.

All that truly matters, unfortunately, is that the Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson movie just clinched its third consecutive week at number one in national ticket sales.

That should be enough to kick start plans for a sequel and a half dozen vaguely similar movies to enter pre-production this week.

But for audiences, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” represents yet another paint-by-numbers, rushed product that seeks to trick viewers with flashy trailers in hopes of quick cash.

In this comedy scarce of laughs, top assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) has been called to testify on the war crimes of a tyrannical head of state.

In order to ensure his arrival, former bodyguard Michael Bryce (Reynolds) has to get Darius to the court on time.

While each actor is independently funny in their own right, Reynolds and Jackson don’t demonstrate much chemistry on screen as Reynolds’ snarky tone clashes with Jackson’s direct, no-nonsense attitude.

It’s almost as if both performers are going through the motions, rehearsing the scenes rather than engaging in them.

For Jackson, this is especially a disappointment as “Bodyguard” leans heavily on the veteran actor’s trademark expletive and acknowledges just how often he claims someone commits incest.

The actual character of Darius becomes completely secondary to Jackson imitating himself from better films, a sad caricature of a much more talented performer than appears in “Bodyguard.”

Reynolds comes off a little bit better as his roguish charm is occasionally appealing as Michael, but even the “Deadpool” actor can’t buy the laughs Tom O’Connor’s subpar script intends him to.

His chemistry is surprisingly better with thinly-written love interest Elodie Yung, though even that relationship doesn’t really do much to tip the scales and make “Bodyguard” an interesting film.

Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman is known for melting into his roles in accent, character and makeup.

Perhaps he would have been better served disappearing from “Bodyguard” entirely, as his second-rate baddie Dukhovich fails to make any impact on screen no matter how much Oldman snarls and spews evil.

It’s a paycheck effort given to allow Oldman the creative freedom to work on projects like “Darkest Hour,” where Oldman will star later this year as Winston Churchill. Nothing more, nothing less.

The film’s action sequences are as hit or miss as its attempts at comedy and vary wildly on a stunt to stunt basis.

There are moments – like when Michael is flung through a car windshield and lands safely on his feet – that can be mouth-dropping.

Other moments feel like stolen imitations from better action films or something that would be better served in the next Steven Seagal straight to DVD adventure.

Much of this blame has to lay at the feet of the film’s director, Patrick Hughes, who essentially attempted to recreate his last feature, “The Expendables 3,” and build a buddy comedy around it. It’s part spy film, part action flick, part R-rated comedy, and 100 percent mediocre.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is destined to become the kind of basic cable movie viewers stop and watch occasionally while flipping channels, but never something that anyone seeks out as must-see entertainment.

Box office success doesn’t always line up with quality filmmaking as much as we might want it to.

There’s hardly a better example than the exceptionally mediocre “The Hitman’s Bodyguard.”

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