The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson Movie Review: A Reimagining Of An Australian Classic

Rob Collins, Bain Stewart, Leah Purcell, Greer Simpkin, and David Jowsey at THE DROVERS WIFE Red Carpet Gala Screening

For every Australian, the name Henry Lawson is a familiar fella. He was a renowned bush poet who penned the Drover’s wife- a nine paged short story of a fierce and protective mother defending her homestead in the bush from an intruder. The short story was published in 1892 Australia, and it needs an overdue makeover and reimagining for mo `dern audiences. 

In comes Leah Purcell, who to Herny Lawson’s Drover wife and reimagined in a post-colonial, indigenous feminist tale of Molly Johnson. Lawson’s original short story stayed with Leah since she was a little girl. 

“When I was five years old, my mother read the original 9-page Drover’s wife story by Henry Lawson; I could imagine myself in the story as the little boy as the protector of the story,” Purcell recalled when asked where she sourced her inspiration. 

The 9-page classic resonated with her as she was from a droving family, and they lived on the outskirts of a small country town. 

“My mother taught me how to split a log and stack a wood heat so the snakes wouldn’t get under, and it was all stuff that reverberated to the original story of the Drover’s wife. As a five-year-old, my imagination went wild, and I saw myself in the story.” 

 The short story was so profound that she adapted her reimagined tale for the third time, from a book to play and now to a cinematic masterpiece that premiered at the Randwick Ritz last month.

The film centres around Molly Johson (Leah Purcell), the eponymous Drover’s wife who is heavily pregnant, encounters an indigenous man, Yadaka (Rob Collins), who is on the run from police as he was a suspected murderer. At first, Molly Johnson was startled by the stranger. Then, however, she slowly unlocks her heritage’s secrets through spending time with Yadaka.

The central relationship between Yadaka and Molly was captivating. Originally, it refers to the “Stray black fellow” in the original and is described to be a “liar” and “cheat.” Purcell restores humanity in her reiteration of the classic. 

Initially, Molly was skeptical upon the arrival of Yadaka, warning the fugitive – “Cross me, and I’ll kill you.” However, she airs on the side of caution before helping him with his shackles once she witnesses that Yadaka teaches her eldest son, Danny (Malachi Dower-Roberts), how to use a spear properly. 

Yadaka also was the person who opened Molly’s eyes to her indigenous heritage and illuminated a part of her that was left dormant for years.

Yadaka later confides to Molly that the only crime he ever committed was “existing while Black.” when questioned why he was on the run from the law – circling back to the ugly racial politics that colonial Australia built on still subtly exists in modern Australia. 

The film continues to build on the legacy of unjust violence – not just against indigenous Australians but domestic violence. Later in the film, it implies that Molly was the prime suspect in her husband’s disappearance. However, the film also implies that the Drover was violent and a cheater and inflicted alot of danger on her and her children. Yet, due to their fierce devotion to her children and her motivation to protect herself, she did the unthinkable. 

Again, this resonates back to the MeToo movement where victims of sexual abuse and assault, who happen to be the majority of women, were never heard and how society sides with the perpetrators who happens to the majority of men.

The film is a cinematic tale of unrelenting feminist strength and highlights the legacy of violence that built colonial Australia. Interweaving elements of her indigenous roots and putting herself in a well-known Australian classic, Purcell has successfully “flipped the scripted” and turned it on its head. 

The Teaser Trailer For 20th Century Studios’ “Avatar: The Way Of Water” Has Just Dropped

The teaser trailer for 20th Century Studios’ “Avatar: The Way of Water, which first debuted in cinemas on May 5, is available now. James Camerons first follow-up to his Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time, will open in Australian cinemas on December 15.

Set more than a decade after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri, and their kids), the trouble that follows them, the lengths they go to keep each other safe, the battles they fight to stay alive,  and the tragedies they endure. Directed by James Cameron and produced by Cameron and Jon Landau, the film stars Zoe Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement and Kate Winslet. 

To whet audiences appetites, the studio will re-release Avatar in cinemas on September 22.

“The Batman” Movie Review: Tried to bring something different to the table but brought too much

When I was younger, I always loved it when someone would ask me what my favorite superhero; (actually, I kind of wish people still asked me that today as an adult) and my answer would always be the same: Batman. Ever since I first saw Tim Burton’s original “Batman” film and then subsequently “Batman: the animated series,” he had easily become my most idolized superhero for many, many years. Flash forward to the future after the birth of the MCU and the release of one too many different Batman incarnations and now Ion Man fills my number one hero slot and Batman has become a literal revolving wall of jokes, memes, and random actors with no signs of consistency showing up anytime soon. This latest incarnation from “Apes” director Matt Reeves is known as “The Batman;” hoping that 6th time is the Batman charm.

Taking us back to early in Batman’s crime-fighting career, Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) is devoting every waking hour and minute of his dual life to striking down the forces of evil corrupting Gotham inside and out. Things become messy and mysterious when the serial killer, the Riddler (Paul Dano) starts murdering high political figures; leaving cryptic riddles connecting to the inner workings of the Mafia as well as Wayne’s own deceased parents. Investigating the likes of Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), Penguin (Colin Farrell), and Carmine Falcone (John Tuturro), Batman must uncover the truth connecting all these faces and events together and save the city before the Riddler brings it to its knees.

Despite this being the 6th cinematic crack at the caped crusader, one thing I cannot deny is that it’s clear that Reeves and Pattison were really trying to deliver something truly different compared to previous Batman films. “The Batman” removes much of the fantastical and science fiction-related elements of the past in place for a darker, far grizzlier, and grittier take that pushes the boundaries of how edgy and violent the Dark Knight can become. Gone are the bat sonic emitters and colorful costumes; grinding this character into an even more reality-based environment than even Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. This is a Batman who is still struggling to make a name for himself and is so busy burying himself deep into the shadows, he doesn’t even care about existing as Bruce Wayne or holding back when putting criminals in their place.

Any reservations I had about “Twilight” star Pattinson donning the cape and cowl went out the window the first moment I saw him step out of the shadow to take down a gang of painted face thugs. He brings a cold, broken sense of detached intensity that truly separates him from his cinematic predecessors; hardly ever relying on a lame joke or a witty smirk to tarnish his frightful façade. Reeves’ take on Gotham makes the city ugly and grimier in ways we’ve never seen before and it creates an atmosphere that feels like it’s a character in and of itself. Jeffery Wright and Andy Serkis serve their roles as James Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth respectively. Nothing to surpass previous incarnations but hardly a blemish on their marks either.

Sadly, while the film boasts an impressive assortment of quality actors playing their villains, all 3 of them suffer from one flaw or another that prevents them from stealing the show as most past villains have. Our signature villain Riddler is unfortunately by far the worst offender. His iconic costume and intellectual presence are heavily marred by his laughably bad “garbage man” costume and Dano’s odd decision to deliver every line with heavy breathing and ear-piercing whimpering. Reeves said his look was inspired by the Zodiac Killer (why that excuses such piss poor costume making is beyond me), at least his riddles and motivation are interesting. Catwoman and Penguin are played well but both are executed too poorly to even be recognized as supporting villains. Kravitz is top-notch as Selena Kyle but her Catwoman mask looks like something a drunk coed would wear to a Halloween party. And for all the numerous hours of high-end makeup transforming Colin Farrell into the Penguin, it feels almost insulting that he is barely around for more than 10 minutes…in a 3 HOUR film that is already TOO LONG.

Overall, “The Batman” tried, it really, really did try very hard to bring something different to the table. The problem is they brought too much. There are multiple conflicting storylines that never succeed in feeling cohesive no matter how hard the characters try to make sense of it. Its two movies crammed into one, overstuffed 3-hour movie which utilizes its hero and thematic vision beautifully, but then bungles its villains so completely it almost feels like Batman would have been better off just fighting the mob instead of such disappointing representations of villains (all handled better in previous films I might add).

We give “The Batman” 2 ½ stars out of 4 stars.

The Trailer For The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Is Here

Nicolas Cage stars as NICOLAS CAGE in the action-comedy THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT. Creatively unfulfilled and facing financial ruin, the fictionalised version of Cage must accept a $1 million offer to attend the birthday of a super fan (Pascal). When things take a wildly dangerous turn, Cage is forced to live up to his own legend, channeling his most iconic and beloved on-screen characters in order to save himself and his loved ones. With a career built for this very moment, the Academy Award® winning iconic actor must take on the role of a lifetime: himself.

Release Date:   April 21
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Alessandra Mastronardi, Lily Sheen, Tiffany Haddish and Neil Patrick Harris
Directed By: Tom Gormican
Written By: Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten
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Hashtag: #nickcagemovie #MassiveTalent
STUDIOCANAL Handle: @studiocanalaus

Spider-Man: No Way Home Movie Review: A Dream-Come-True-Film

With the Avengers disassembled after the events of “Endgame” and a crop of new stars on the rise still too early to take center stage, few crossover events have matched the grandiosity and attention beyond “Infinity War” and “Endgame.” After successfully rebooting Spider-man with Tom Holland into the MCU, we finally complete his “home trilogy” with a third installment to ambitious enough to prove not all trilogies collapse once we reach Roman numeral number 3. “Spider-man: No Way home” is in many ways a culmination of all Spider-man films that came before it, while also providing a cinematic cap off to all 3 Spider-man franchises simultaneously in one wondrous, crossover package. Let’s dive into the Multiverse and see if it all pays off.

Picking up directly after the events of “Spider-man: Far from home,” the world now knows that Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is the man behind the Spider-man mask. His life, his friends, his aunt (Marisa Tomei), and even his girlfriend (Zendaya) have their worlds turned upside down as the world refuses to give Parker one moment of peace. Desperate to undo this damage, Peter contacts Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell to make everyone forget Spider-man is Peter Parker. Unfortunately, Peter disrupts the spell and causes pleather of villains from other Spider-man universes to invade; including Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Dr. Octopus (Alfred Molina), Electro (Jamie Foxx), and more. Now Spider-man must send the villains back before his life and his reality are torn apart in the wake of his greatest mistake.

Many franchises juggle their characters defining actors around with a roll of the dice. With Batman having 6 different actors to portray him on film, 3 for Hulk and now 3 for Spider-man, it can be hard to keep track of which version of a character people are most familiar with. “No way home” solves this problem by combining them into one, cross-dimensional collision that brings heroes and villains from 3 separate franchises and not only finds a logical way for them to fit together but also to improve and expand upon their own mythologies and stories left unexplained from previous installments. Spider-man learns his hardest lessons thanks to the stars of the past films and figures that came before him and does so in an exceptionally beautiful way.

No words can properly describe the chills that went down my spine when I saw Holland duking it out with Doc Ock from “Spider-man 2” and Electro from “Amazing Spider-man 2,” it was a fan spasm moment I never thought I would be able to witness. The story perfectly brings the iconic suffering in Parker’s life to the forefront; having his consequences affect his friends, his family, and even his school life is a painfully realistic and natural causality due to his actions. It’s a darker side we never got to see this Spider-man go through and Holland’s incredible performance captured the emotional impact and significance of this dramatic turn perfectly. By far though, the most incredible aspect of this film to behold is the use and interaction of the villains.

We see the likes of Sandman, Doc Ock, Green Goblin, and Lizard interacting with each other, learning of their individual fates and how their lives have been changed by Spider-man. It collects so many talented names and faces under one roof and develops them beyond being big bads; learning what makes them tick and how they feel learning about their lives and possible future when dealing with Spider-man. This is far more than a fan service film or even a flashy comic book action movie, this is the ultimate form of appreciation and collaboration of everything Spider-man is and ever was throughout all previous 7 films; even more so than “Into the Spider-verse.” This is a jam-packed, stellar sendoff that wows your eyes, attacks your heart, and mixes all those feelings together in one unforgettable trilogy topper that does everyone justice.

Overall, “Spider-man: No way home” is a dream-come-true-film that felt far more impossible and unlikely to happen than even the first “Avengers” film. Every hero, villain, minor, major and side character delivers their best work throughout all 3 co-existing franchises. This is not only the ultimate Spider-man movie of all time but also the film of the year and one of Marvel’s best of the best. If things ended here for Holland’s Spider-man then he’d be going out on the highest of high notes, but even though I doubt this entry can be topped, I cannot wait to see what the future holds in store for Spider-man. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate, buy/watch this movie ASAP and be amazed.

I give “Spider-man: No way home” 4 stars out of 4 stars.

 

Editorial credit: Sarunyu L / Shutterstock.com

Marvel Studios Debuts “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” Trailer During Superbowl

During The Super Bowl, Marvel Studios debuted a brand-new trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness that took viewers on a mind-blowing whirlwind through the Multiverse. In addition, Marvel Studios also released a new poster for the supernatural adventureavailable now.

In Marvel Studios’ “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the MCU unlocks the Multiverse and pushes its boundaries further than ever before. Journey into the unknown with Doctor Strange, who, with the help of mystical allies both old and new, traverses the mind-bending and dangerous alternate realities of the Multiverse to confront a mysterious new adversary.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez, with Michael Stühlbarg, and Rachel McAdams.

The film is directed by Sam Raimi, and Kevin Feige is the producer. Louis DEsposito, Victoria Alonso, Eric Hauserman Carroll and Jamie Christopher serve as executive producers. The screenplay was written by Michael Waldron.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness releases in Australian cinemas on May 5, 2022.

“Encanto” Movie Review: Plenty Of Flash & Staying Power But No Staying Power

With the success of “Moana” and growing need/interest in diversity in their princess line/history, Disney has been trying to pass the cultural test with all possible flying colors by adapting every kind of hero and heroine for their animated feature films. With “Moana,” and “Raya and the last dragon,” it’s clear Disney is trying to put their own iconic magical spin on every possible fairy tale they can weave with new rising stars and storytellers to pave the way for future profits and programming. “Encanto” is a Columbian fantasy tale, scored through the genius musical mind of Lynn-Manual Miranda, who had already delivered substantial musical success for Disney with his work in “Moana” and “Mary Poppins Returns.” One always hopes lightning strikes more than once so let’s see if Disney has conjured up the right kind of magic once again.

In a humble village in Columbia, the centerpiece of the town (and the story) is the Madrigals family: a family blessed with a magical house that is not only alive and vibrantly energetic but also grants each new family member as they come of age with their own, unique mystical power. From super strength, weather manipulation, and shape-shifting, there’s something extra special about every member of the Madrigals family…except for Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz). She’s the only one who never received a mystical gift and it has left her feeling disconnected and ignored by her magical-powered relatives. However, when a mysterious danger threatens to eliminate the magic from the Madrigals forever, Mirabel must find out what is causing the magic to disappear and save her family’s gifts before they are lost for all eternity.

The subject of family is no stranger to Disney’s usual go-to story focuses. Certain cultures and families have a greater emphasis on the importance of family and that is no different here. However, the strange thing about “Encanto” is that for as fantastical and family-focused as it is, the film seems to mix its signals on presenting family; often coming off sadder and head scratching than anything whimsical. Almost every plot twist, line of dialog, and the musical number has to revolve around why family is so important and how dedicated this particular family is to one another. And yet, Mirabel not only receives no magical gift she gets shunned and ignored by her family members simply because she is different from them; even from the figurehead of the family.

The prejudice towards Mirabel not only feels hurtful but also unnecessarily aggressive, even if that is the point/source of conflict for the character. The whole plot circles the looming threat of everyone losing their powers and that level of jeopardy feels a bit lacking when everyone is being an obnoxious pill towards Mirabel just because she’s different; even to the point you WANT them to end up powerless so they can see what Mirabel has been going through. The movie kinda spins its wheels around this central plot and doesn’t really leave room for much else outside of enjoying Miradna’s signature soundtrack works of art. The songs range from catchy to forgettable. They are well presented and beautifully packaged, but again, they all dance around the same issue with little variation, and even the tune pitches don’t change enough for me to say I can remember more than one song off top of my head after seeing it.

The catchiest song actually deals with the character of Bruno (voiced by John Leguizamo) who is treated even worse than Mirabel, and the more you find out the worse you feel for this character. I felt bad for him more so than anyone else in the rest of the family. Among all the beautiful colors, stunning visuals, and bouncing tunes; the film seems to mishandle its own message and sends conflicting morals about family connections that were handled far more elegantly and meaningfully in Pixar’s “Coco” then they were here. Even with a Disney film having an expected happily ever after, the cast never becomes likable or memorable enough to feel like the lessons have been learned or expressed in the right way; to us or the cast.

Overall, “Encanto” has a lot to like but not as much to love if you ask me. There’s plenty of flash and colorful music but no staying power, not during the film and certainly not after it. The message about the power of families feels disjointed and poorly arranged in a way that it contradicts itself and ends up painting the Madrigals as glorified jerks rather than a whimsical family to emulate and idolize. Once you get behind it all, there’s not much going on and at the end, the answers all seem so obvious you’re wondering why it took so long to learn the clear-cut message. But hey, at least it’s got great music.

I give “Encanto” 2 stars out of 4 stars.

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings Review: One Of The Most Beautiful Films We’ve Seen In Years

If there’s one thing the monumentally successful “Black Panther” film taught Disney it’s that representation not only matters, but it’s also exceedingly well received and successful when handled properly. Disney’s gross mishandling of “Black Widow” with their streaming service caused major changes to their movie release patterns. There was a lot riding on “Shang Chi”, both financially and culturally and Disney needed to give this new hero in the making its proper dues and respect. While a lesser-known character compared to the likes of Iron Man or Spider-Man, Marvel has made stranger characters into household names like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Ant-Man.” With no big names attached and a culture putting a lot on this film being a success, let’s hope this film plays out like we all hope it will.

Our titular hero Shang Chi (Simu Liu) is the son of an immortal crime lord; The Mandarin (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) who has long controlled the criminal underworld for centuries thanks to his super-powered mystical rings. After trying to live a normal life with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina), his father sends warriors to bring him back into the fold and make him his right-hand man. Shang Chi discovers his father and his armies are planning to unleash a destructive and deadly force upon the world. Now he must discover his true identity and master his abilities to stop his father and save the world from a threat just waiting to be unleashed.

The Marvel films have never been lacking in the action department. But it wasn’t until I got a glimpse of the kung-fu fighting styles of the cast in “Shang Chi” that I realized that there has been a serious lacking of proper martial arts content. Much like “Black Panther,” “Shang Chi” is a completely self-contained Marvel story that manages to stay well connected with the established universe, as well as be its own thing and develop its own unique world, rules, powers, and unique environments. “Shang Chi” is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in years. Not just talking special effects here, but also the deep, meticulous care and effort that are put into the epic storytelling and the majestic visuals of the martial arts being displayed by phenomenally talented actors.

The “bus scene” alone is worth the price of a movie ticket. Every shot, kick, punch and flip is expertly crafted to make the fighting look and feel as real as possible. Fantastical fights are in here aplenty but the film never backs down from delivering a multitude of incredible martial arts battles that never fail to entertain you. Simu Liu is new to me but he clearly has talent beyond his physical capabilities. He presents a believable, down to Earth guy who masterfully balances humor, stoicism, and being a badass while making it come off naturally all at the same time. His chemistry with comedy queen Awkwafina is always on point. They have a realistic rhythm that keeps the humor and heart strong and effective without it ever feeling forced. They’re one of the best duos in Marvel’s history and I truly hope she sticks around as long as War Machine or Wong has.

Tony Chiu-Wai Leung is a unique villain as at times, he feels as much like the leading man as Shang Chi is. He’s conflicted, dangerous, powerful, cold but also relatable, wounded, and full of pain and grief that makes him far more than just a world-conquering supervillain. The world-building brings the story to many different locations and settings; engaging everything from mystical dragon lands to cage fighting in the underworld. There’s even a stellar cameo from Ben Kingsley; one of the few strong connections to the Marvel universe in this film. He’s as delightful as he was in “Iron Man 3” and to see this film use him and make him part of the journey shows a great sense of connectivity I am thankful was not dismissed.

My only criticism comes from the lack of proper use of Katy and Shang as a duo and a potential couple. The film teases some possible romance blossoms blooming but kind of forgets about and never comes back to it. If they dismissed it, it’d be one thing but to tease it and kind of drop the ball on it later feels like a wasted opportunity. Again, I hope Awkwafina follows Simu Liu in future sequels. Overall, minor gripe aside, “Shang Chi” is a wonderfully inventive new approach for Marvel that delivers on every possible level. This film may seem like it was only made for some people but in truth, it was made for everyone and it shows, Marvel fan or not. See why this film is such a stellar, well-deserving success, and go see this film whenever you can.

We give “Shang Chi: Legend of the Ten rings” 3 ½ stars out of 4.

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story Pulls No Punches In New Trailer

Rachel Zegler as Maria in 20th Century Studios’ WEST SIDE STORY. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

 

Walt Disney Company recently released a new trailer, poster, and stills for Academy Award® winning director Steven Spielbergs film adaptation of the musical West Side Story, which will open only in cinemas on Boxing Day, 2021.

Directed by Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, from a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award® winner Tony Kushner, West Side Story” tells the classic tale of fierce rivalries and young love in 1957 New York City. This reimagining of the beloved musical stars Ansel Elgort (Tony); Rachel Zegler (María); Ariana DeBose (Anita); David Alvarez (Bernardo); Mike Faist (Riff); Josh Andrés Rivera (Chino); Ana Isabelle (Rosalía); Corey Stoll (Lieutenant Schrank); Brian dArcy James (Officer Krupke); and Rita Moreno (as Valentina, who owns the corner store in which Tony works). Moreno  one of only three artists to be honored with Academy®, Emmy®, GRAMMY®, Tony®, and Peabody Awards  also serves as one of the films executive producers.

Bringing together the best of both Broadway and Hollywood, the films creative team includes Kushner, who also serves as an executive producer; Tony Award® winner Justin Peck, who choreographed the musical numbers in the film; renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor and GRAMMY Award® winner Gustavo Dudamel, who helmed the recording of the iconic score; Academy Award®-nominated composer and conductor David Newman (Anastasia), who arranged the score; Tony Award®-winning composer Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie), who supervised the cast on vocals; and Grammy®-nominated music supervisor Matt Sullivan (Beauty and the Beast,” “Chicago), who served as executive music producer for the film. The film is produced by Spielberg, Academy Award®-nominated producer Kristie Macosko Krieger and Tony Award®-winning producer Kevin McCollum. West Side Story has been adapted for the screen from the original 1957 Broadway show, with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and concept, direction, and choreography by Jerome Robbins.

From 20th Century Studios, The Walt Disney Company will release West Side Story” in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day, 2021. Check out the trailer below:

The Verdict On The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard: Is It Worth Your Time And Money??

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Lionsgate Movies’ YouTube Video

Back in the days of early action films, buddy comedy films were a dime a dozen. Every polar opposing star would get paired up with another polar opposing star and the hope was the chemistry would explode into a dynamic duo kind of picture that somehow (hopefully) capture lightning in a bottle. There are plenty of examples where it worked beautifully (Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour), and there are just as many examples where it failed horribly (I Spy, Showtime) and for a long, while they all kinda dried up and died out. Then 2017’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” comes along and surprisingly has the bark, bite, and bombastic bullet showers to prove that well-written, well-cast buddy cop-like films still had some fire in him. While the first film was an unexpected hit, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” didn’t seem to learn from its predecessor.

After struggling to recover his failing bodyguard protection service, Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) tries to take a vacation to get his mind off the various troubles caused by his last client: infamous hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). The vacation ends abruptly with Darius’s wife, Sonia (Salma Hayek) literally explodes onto the scene and says her husband has been kidnapped and she needs Bryce’s help to get him back. Now, Bryce, Sonia, and Darius are being catapulted onto another crazy, explosive adventure that will put them all through collective misery as they try and stop whoever is after the Kincaids and hopefully try and survive the whole process.

The phrase bigger is better is often used when it comes to sequels. The budget, the cast, the stakes; everything is escalated into massive proportions and in some cases, this can serve as a massive backfire. “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” doesn’t feel like a sequel or even a movie but more like an exaggerated, blown-up R-rated cartoon; flinging flashy nonsense, huge explosions, and Salma Hayek screaming randomly at everyone she fires while Ryan Reynolds suffers visibly at every wake and turn. Now the first film wasn’t a supremely reality grounded film but it had a more sensible and effective sense of pacing with its humor and its action. This film has NO pacing. It’s barely 10 minutes into the movie things are already going “Michael Bay” and the movie never once tries to stop or slow down from there.

In a lot of ways, this strongly reminds me of the film “Red 2,” sequel to “Red” starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren. Like in “Red 2”, “Hitman’s Wife’s bodyguard” just throws out everything that made the first film good and spackles all the holes with 50% larger explosions and absurdly over the top yelling, screaming, running, and jacking everything up far higher and louder than it needs to be. The first film struck an excellent chord with Reynolds and Jackson’s chemistry. They were annoying and shooting the Hell out of each other every 5 minutes and their animosity was a true comedic joy to watch. They matched each other move for move and yeah, it was childish, but it gave you just enough humor and heartfelt moments at the right times that it felt like you were getting more for your money than just quips and fireworks.

Salma Hayek is clearly having a good time here but I can’t say the same for everyone else. She’s far too goofy and obnoxiously loud that she doesn’t know what tone it down means, actually, no one in this film does. Much of Jackson and Reynolds’ banter is watered down and left largely at Reynolds’ expense. Which can be funny I admit, at times, but so much is at his expense that it just feels like he’s a punchline who happens to be along for the ride and not much of a character with much depth or interest and the background depth he DOES get kinda feels flat and lacking proper implementation. Antonio Banderas is your standard villain of the week with no gravitas, memorability, or even much relevance. His scheme had a unique doomsday kind of weapon that could have provided some interesting visual sequences….had they used it more than just one single time.

Overall, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife” is like when your kid bangs on the pots and drums and calls it music; it’s noise that someone is calling entertainment when it’s not. Much of the magic and well-crafted humor of the first film has long been lost; replaced with louder yells, bigger bombs, and zero pacing from the starting line. I’m glad everyone had fun making this film, I truly am. But if you want me to enjoy it enough to say I’d recommend it to someone else or shell out more hard-earned money to see the 3rd installment, you’re gonna need a better boat; not a BIGGER one…a better one.

I give “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” 1 ½ star out of 4 stars.