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MOVIE REVIEW

‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’: It isn’t necessarily the character who needs protecting

From left: Samuel L. Jackson, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and Ryan Reynolds in "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard."
From left: Samuel L. Jackson, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and Ryan Reynolds in "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard."David Appleby/Associated Press

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard” (2017) isn’t a very good movie — all right, it’s a pretty bad movie — but the action comedy has its moments. Most of them have to do with Samuel L. Jackson. He plays the hitman in question, Darius Kincaid, the world’s deadliest assassin. But Darius, under custody, needs personal protection, since he has to go to The Hague to testify. That’s where Ryan Reynolds’s Michael Bryce comes in, as Darius’s bodyguard. Michael’s prissiness nicely complements Darius’s Samuel L. Jackson-ness. An unexpected bonus is Salma Hayek, playing the hitman’s wife, Sonia.

Aha, you say, that explains the title of the sequel: “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.” The title’s misleading, actually. The three of them are more or less equals, firing semiautomatic weapons over much of Italy and cursing up a storm — well, Darius does (what’s the point of casting Samuel L. Jackson if his character doesn’t?) — and this being a marriage of true minds Sonia holds up her end on the foul-mouthed front.

Salma Hayek in "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard."
Salma Hayek in "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard." David Appleby/Lionsgate/Associated Press

So the cursing is a given, but why all the gunplay? Darius and Sonia just want to take a long-delayed honeymoon. As for Michael, he’s on “sabbatical.” “No killing, no blood, boring’s always best,” he declares. Think of that as a straight line for which the rest of the movie is a relentless punchline.

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It seems the European Union wants Greece to cough up mucho euros (apparently this part of the script was written in 2010 and never got revised). An Onassis-like tycoon, Aristotle Papadopolous, takes great offense. To get the EU to back down, he threatens to hack Western Europe’s power grid in 48 hours. He shuts down Zagreb to show he means it.

As played by Antonio Banderas, Papadopolous is basically a Bond villain in search of a Bond movie. (Imagine expecting to aim your sneer at Daniel Craig and finding Ryan Reynolds instead.) The other big-name addition to the cast is Morgan Freeman. To reveal his role would spoil the movie’s most outlandish gag — well, second-most.

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Banderas is easily the most entertaining thing in a not-at-all-entertaining movie. The humor is crass when it isn’t forced. The violence, which barely pauses for reloading, feels even more mechanical than it does mindless, and it’s very mindless. How can a movie so full of action feel so tired?

Frank Grillo in "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard."
Frank Grillo in "The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard." David Appleby/Associated Press

In a notably grating performance, Frank Grillo plays a Boston police detective who has somehow gotten a job with Europol. The movie’s most unexpected joke is his complaining about not being able to get a Sam Adams in Europe. Overseeing the efforts of Bryce and the Kincaids, he snarls, “Perhaps this time we do things the Boston way.” “The Boston way”? Presumably, that involves drinking Sam Adams while wearing Red Sox caps. He sounds like someone who’s watched “The Departed” one time too many. That’s true of some movies even if you’ve seen them just once.

½

THE HITMAN’S WIFE’S BODYGUARD

Directed by Patrick Hughes. Written by Tom O’Connor, Brandon Murphy, and Philip Murphy. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman. At Boston theaters, suburbs. 100 minutes. R (nonstop violence, nonstop profanity, sexual situations).


Mark Feeney can be reached at mark.feeney@globe.com.