There are two action films being delivered this weekend that might be perfect for those needing a break dealing with the reality without resorting to prescription drugs.  That’s what movies are for, right? The first, Hitman’s Bodyguard, is a throwback to the 80s action flicks where quips and kabooms were nearly entirely the basis for success. The other, Logan Lucky, is a funky auteur heist movie with as much action, but with twice the staying power.  A double feature of the two would be like eating a burger at McDonalds, then momma’s homemade chicken-fried steak. Both will fill you up, but one will leave you smiling into next week.

That’s not to say that The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t a worthy romp for those who love its stars. It requires viewers to call it what it is going in, an entertaining old style Hollywood money-grab. There’s no reinvention here, just a silly, curse-y fun 111 minutes Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and friends.

Top protection agent Michael Bryce (Reynolds) loses the high life and his reputation after losing a high profile client. He gets used to driving a scratched-up used car, only to be called back into action and offered redemption by ex-lover and Interpol agent Amelia (Elodie Yung).  She wants him to guard and protect one of the world’s top hitmen, Darius Kincaid, (Jackson).  He is needed to testify in a war crimes trial in the Hague against a super bad dude from Belarus played by Gary Oldman.  It’s delightful right about now, or any time, to mention Salma Hayek. She plays Darius’s wife Sonia.  Its a teflon cast, built to withstand cliches, and doesn’t need much more than a few explosions and expletives to keep an audience in their seats.

Imagine Jules Winnfield meets The Merc with the Mouth, with Ivan Korshunov, the villain from Air Force One, and Kitty Softpaws from Puss in Boots thrown in to make things interesting.

Ryan Reynolds has made a career out of cobbling together the public’s insatiable appreciation of his charm with lots of questionable choices, but he does always seem to be having a blast.  In the case of The Hitman’s Bodyguard, he carries the audience along with him.

Samuel L. Jackson has raised the use of a mother-related expletive to high art, and he uses it liberally throughout the film, bringing his fans warm memories of Pulp Fiction, Snakes on a Plane, and other Jackson ‘classics’. He doesn’t always pick the best written or most inventive flicks to star in either, but one gets the sense he’s come to a point in his career where he chooses movies based on the potential fun quotient. Though entirely devoid of surprise, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is definitely always fun.

In the current onslaught of strange and often depressing news, there are worse things than seating ourselves in front of a special effects and cliche-driven celebrity vehicle.  It is said a little brainless distraction can be good between tense moments of political resistance.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars


While Hitman’s Bodyguard is a silly, forgettable, 80s-throwback, Logan Lucky, which is releasing this week to far fewer theaters, is not nearly as disposable. It’s an unqualified delight that will stay with you far longer and beg repeated viewing. Such is the case with many a Steven Soderbergh film.

Wasn’t the director of the Oceans and Magic Mike film franchises retiring from Hollywood? Don’t worry, nobody else believed he was done with feature filmmaking, either.  After spending a few years carving out interesting stories on the small screen, Soderbergh is back, and this time with a sort of hillbilly Oceans Eleven.

The movie stars Channing Tatum, now four-time Soderbergh muse, as Jimmy Logan, a down-on-his-luck West Virginian former coal miner, who comes up with a plan to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina during a NASCAR race. He enlists the help of his brother, one-armed bartender Clyde (Adam Driver) and beautician sister Mellie (Riley Keough) as well as a nutty con named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).  There’s a great cast of other co-stars, including Katie Holmes and Sebastian Stan, and some great stolen scenes with Seth MacFarlane sporting facial hair that deserves its own screen credit. It’s Daniel Craig who is going to force fans to see the movie again and again. The actor, who showed himself a skilled actor long before donning a tux as Bond, is clearly relishing this liberating role, all to the audience’s benefit.

Either Soderbergh is a hero or a villain in one way: the script is reportedly written by first time screenwriter Rebecca Blunt. The problem is, many believe that name is another one of his pseudonyms. No one has seen or heard from the woman. When asked about it, Soderbergh said he found it unfortunate that Hollywood couldn’t believe a female scriptwriter could create such a well written movie, especially her first time out. True enough! So. Either he gave a woman writer a break and is standing up for his hire in the news media, or he’s creating a complicated ruse to keep people from finding out it was him. Another possibility is it was written by his wife, entertainment journalist Jules Asner. Let’s hope, since a number of us are big fans of his, that he is mentoring a female writer. We can always use a good one out there in Hollywood!

The biggest, most compelling reason to see Logan Lucky over the Hitman movie is the former develops unique and interesting characters for its cast, whereas the latter depends almost entirely on the public personas of its stars.  It’s oddball storytelling with characters that constantly subvert expectation by playing fast and loose with red state stereotypes, and it affectionately wears its sincerity on its sleeve.  Don’t examine the plot to terribly closely, just enjoy the hammy accents, the celebration of family, the clever plot twists, and the unexpected casting. Start memorizing quotes now, because there are some doozies in there, especially from (“introducing”) Daniel Craig’s Joe Bang.