“F9: The Fast Saga”, the 226th installment in the “Fast & Furious” franchise (okay, so it’s really the ninth film in the series – or 10th, if you count the spinoff “Hobbs & Shaw”) opens today in theaters.
And that’s bound to draw a whole lot of people into theaters over the next few weeks.
But if that’s not your “speed” – and you’ve already seen gems like “Cruella”, “A Quiet Place Part II” or “In the Heights” – there were only two major new releases last week. One will require you to stay home, because it’s only available on Netflix. And the other may make you wish you stayed home, because it completely sucks!
“Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” (Rated C)
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas
Where to watch: In theaters
Dwight’s Rating: One Star
This went bad faster than a mayonnaise or dairy dish left out in the hot Bahamian summer sun for nine hours.
Just four years ago, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” was a funny, entertaining and likable odd-couple, buddy comedy.
In my 2017 review, I wrote that stars Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson were “a superbly dynamic duo, who sparkle together as the ultimate bickering ‘frenemies’”. I even used words like “screen magic”, and said the cast made the film “watchable despite major flaws with its preposterous premise”. Wow!
Well, this follow-up, “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard”, has apparently decided to double down on the preposterousness and play up the major flaws. Even with the same director, and the original screenwriter (along with others, this time), the new film has got to be one of the smelliest, sourest, most ridiculous sequels in a good number of years, and quite possibly the worst movie of 2021 so far.
Reynolds is back as bodyguard Michael Bryce, and Jackson again plays hitman Darius Kincaid – the world’s most lethal odd couple. They’re on another life-threatening mission. Still unlicensed and under scrutiny, Bryce is forced into action by Darius’ even more volatile wife (Selma Hayek). Soon, all three are in over their heads when madman Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas) hatches a sinister plot, threatening to leave Europe in total chaos.
The best things about the original film – the banter between Reynolds and Jackson – are all but eliminated. And the little of it that’s left is unmemorable and tiresome. Jackson seems particularly “tired”, with barely any hints of the energy we saw in the first picture. And all that I thought I wanted more of in the first movie, came back to haunt me in the most unpleasant ways – as if I had indeed eaten a sun-spoiled dish.
In 2017, I was truly delighted by Hayek’s cameo, and wrote: “Also loads of fun: an extremely potty-mouthed Salma Hayek playing Jackson’s very violent wife. It’s disturbing, but mostly delightful, to see Hayek (who turns 51 next month!) spew out the most-vile words in both English and Spanish – that as-strong-as-ever Mexican accent adding to the uncomfortable hilarity.” Ha!
Well, some genius thought it would make sense to stretch that “cute” cameo into a whole darned film. As a result, Hayek is completely out of control. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how much more over-the-top things get with her and this ridiculous character. And that potty-mouth becomes a sewer ocean!
As before, the plot is far-fetched. The violence is ratcheted so high that the production seems completely off-tone. Amidst the unbelievable gore, death and destruction – with people shot, impaled, and eyes gouged out – happy and celebratory music and pop hits play loudly. Everything’s a joke!
It’s almost cartoonish. In fact, had this been an animated television series like “Family Guy” or “South Park” or “Rick and Morty”, it possibly could have worked. But what fans of adult animated programs – or even superhero movies like Reynold’s own “Deadpool” – will accept, often doesn’t feel right when we’re seeing “real” people being treated in this manner.
Somebody thinks this is what passes for comedy! Somehow, Morgan Freeman is roped into this mess. And Reynolds tries his best with his characteristic snarky comments. And he does have some amusing lines.
But “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” is simply complete foolishness: nowhere near as funny as it should be, not as farcical as it clearly thinks it is or probably needed to be, and just plain stupid!
You’re likely to find the results of eating day-old, sun baked potato salad far more entertaining and productive.
“Fatherhood” (US Rated PG-13)
Cast: Kevin Hart, Alfre Woodard, Melody Hurd, Lil Rel Howery, DeWanda Wise
Where to watch: Netflix
The true Kevin Hart fans out there knew he had it in him.
Those who have followed his blockbuster stand-up comedy career and his many film and television roles, have always been keenly aware of his talents, with his impeccable timing, range, and yes, depth.
Hart now joins the list of many other actors known primarily for comic roles, who’ve come to be just as dynamic – if not even more so – in dramatic roles. He delivers a fantastic performance in the new film “Fatherhood”: thoughtful, balanced, measured, heartfelt.
He plays a father bringing up his baby girl as a single dad after the unexpected death of his wife, who died a day after their daughter’s birth.
Based on the 2011 book, “Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love”, the film is quite sweet and at times incredibly touching, particularly during the first half hour.
In addition to Hart’s strong performance, Alfre Woodard, playing his mother-in-law, is in her usual excellent form, and there’s also a decent supporting cast, including young Melody Hurd playing Maddy.
By the mid-point of the movie, though, “Fatherhood” begins to take on some familiarity, as we have definitely seen many variations of this “struggling single father” story before, in countless movies and television.
As such, some of the film’s initial specialness dissipates a bit, and much of what we see becomes quite predictable.
Nevertheless, the cast, and especially Hart, make “Fatherhood” a pleasant place to spend some time and definitely worth-seeing.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email email@example.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.