The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard is an expensive disappointment

The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, MA 15+, 116 minutes. Two stars

The great British actor Michael Caine has a brilliant resume with dozens of iconic films - The Italian Job, The Ipcress Files, Alfie - and one of the charming things about him is his complete honesty when asked about his success.

He will tell interviewers that it's really a numbers game and he just says yes to any work he's offered and occasionally he's lucky and the film isn't terrible.

I very much feel that the production team behind The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard took the same approach to this sequel to the modest 2017 film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.

This film has literally everything.

There are car chases, explosions, world-threatening terrorists, big stars in throwaway minor roles.

There is writing that tries to give Reynolds the same schtick that makes his Deadpool character funny, tries to give Jackson the kind of smirking catchphrase moments he is beloved for, and gives new addition Salma Hayek plenty of language-based comedy and opportunities to work her cleavage as a plot device.

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard. Picture: Roadshow

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard. Picture: Roadshow

It is a throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach and I have to say that unfortunately plenty of it does not stick at all.

I know I'm a jaded film critic and I might approach things a bit cynically - I was reminded of this as a woman sitting in my row in the cinema absolutely belly-laughed throughout, at every single line.

I wondered what I was missing.

Only when Morgan Freeman appears, almost two-thirds of the way through this nearly two-hour film, do the pieces start to fit together, like Freeman was the missing ingredient, the salt thrown into the recipe making the flavours coalesce.

But two-thirds of the way in is almost too late.

In the 2017 film, one of the world's top bodyguards, Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is tasked to protect the kind of guy he usually protects his clients from - big-time assassin Darius Kincaid (Jackson) needs Bryce's protection to make it to The Hague to give evidence at the International Criminal Court.

In this sequel, set not too long after, Bryce is undergoing therapy for the career-ending trauma experienced in the first film.

His psychiatrist convinces him to go on a "violence sabbatical" and get some balance back in his life, something he tries very hard to do for as long as possible, even when the new bride of his one-time client Kincaid turns up needing his help.

When Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) practically hijacks Bryce from his Italian holiday to free her recently-kidnapped husband (Jackson), Bryce attempts a Zen approach to freeing the hitman.

But Bryce and the Kincaids find themselves at the centre of an Interpol sting that pits good guys Crowley (Caroline Goodall) and Bobby O'Neill (Frank Grillo) against a Greek billionaire bent on world disruption, Aristotle Papadopolous (Antonio Banderas), and his team of bodyguard assassins (Tom Hooper, Kristopher Kamiyatsu, Gabrielle Wright).

The hitman, his wife, and their reluctant bodyguard have a few obstacles in their path.

These include saving Europe from social ruin and their own constant infighting.

We all love all of these actors, we all want them to succeed, which is why this film is so disappointing.

In trying to be all things to all people, particularly in trying to service these big stars with more of what makes us love them, the film diminishes them and is frustrating to witness.

There is so much largesse up on the screen it is actually obscene.

So much money is thrown down the toilet on fleeting moments that don't get laughs and don't serve the plot, with massive car chases or bullet-strewn set pieces.

With better writing and some directorial restraint, this could have been a better film.

Maybe the sequel this film sets up might be that better film.

This story Excess does not succeed here first appeared on The Canberra Times.