★★

The Hitman’s Bodyguard follows the intertwined fates of two men equally skilled in their chosen professions: high-profile bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) and seemingly unkillable hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). Although their paths have crossed before, the circumstances are different this time: A dictator named Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman) is on trial at the International Court of Justice for innumerable crimes against humanity, and Kincaid is the only incriminating witness who has yet to bite the bullet before testifying against him. Now, Bryce must deliver Kincaid to the courthouse in Amsterdam alive in order to redeem himself following a professional debacle and win back the heart of Interpol agent and former lover Amelia Roussel (Elodie Yung).

If nothing else, the film delivers on its major selling points. A star-studded cast battle their way through explosions, gunfire, and hand-to-hand combat, all while retaining their individual character tropes and witty sense of humor. Screenwriter Tom O’Connor did manage to craft a quasi-meaningful scene here and there, as the clashing personalities of Bryce and Kincaid debate such weighty topics as life, love, and the distinction between “good guys and bad guys.” But these occasional heart-to-heart conversations are ultimately overpowered by a series of firefights and car chases that our heroes miraculously survive (nearly unscathed) time and time again. After killing what must be hundreds of Dukhovich’s cronies, both gunslingers ironically return to the familiar maxims that the end justifies the means and, of course, that love conquers all.

Perhaps the most obvious pitfall of relying so heavily on the expected action-comedy formula is that it proves a waste of the actors’ talents. Rather than allowing this group of A-listers to flesh out their roles and bring depth to the shallow plot line, the script simply gives them one-dimensional characters who typically only have a single defining personality trait. Except for the low-key tenderness between the (otherwise vulgar and abrasive) couple of Darius and his wife Sonia (Salma Hayek), there are no surprises in the midst of a constant chorus of gunshots and flaming vehicles. It’s clear this film was never meant to be a think piece, but rather a surface-level exploration of good and evil, as well as a reminder of the importance of love in the face of violent political ideologies and power structures. At the end of the day, The Hitman’s Bodyguard doesn’t have much more to offer than Kincaid’s philosophy of “shoot first, think later.”