Producers: Matt O’Toole, Les Weldon and Yariv Lerner   Director: Patrick Hughes   Screenplay: Tom O’Connor, Phillip Murphy and Brandon Murphy   Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, Richard E. Grant, Frank Grillo, Tom Hopper, Caroline Goodall  and Rebecca Front   Distributor: Lionsgate

Grade:  D-

When “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” came out in 2017, a sequel seemed unlikely, not so much because it was a pretty terrible movie—though it was—but because it was at best a modest box office success.  But here’s a follow-up, and it’s much worse, an incredibly aggravating mixture of noise, mayhem, sub-juvenile farce and puerile humor that reeks of desperation from first to last. 

Ryan Reynolds returns as Michael Bryce, the painfully eager-to-succeed bodyguard who lost his license last time around due to his involvement with notorious hit-man Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) and his spitfire wife Sonia (Salma Hayek).  Now he’s dragged into their orbit again.

The catalyst is Sonia, who interrupts the vacation to Capri Bryce’s therapist (Rebecca Front) has suggested in order to get his help in rescuing Darius from the violent mobsters he owes money to.  (Of course Darius didn’t want Bryce involved—that was a misunderstanding on Sonia’s part—and though Michael proves singularly unhelpful, they all get away.)

After that encounter they’re arrested by Bobby O’Neill (Frank Grillo), an American on the Interpol staff.  He blackmails them into helping the agency take down Aristotle Papadopoulos (Antonio Banderas), a billionaire who’s planning to destroy the EU in retaliation for its stringent economic treatment of his beloved Greece.  (How Greece, a member of the EU, would escape the devastation is never explained.)

Having roused the villain’s ire, the unlikely trio seeks help from Michael’s adoptive father (Morgan Freeman), a master bodyguard whose approval he craves, but are captured by Aristotle anyway.  Sonia, who’s revealed to have had a relationship with the mogul, stays with him, but Michael and Darius escape and seek to foil his plan to attack an underwater link to the European power grid.  Boarding his yacht, they face off against him and his minions, including an ultra-efficient turncoat bodyguard (Tom Hopper).  One doesn’t want to spoil the big finale, but it’s the Texas power grid that went down, not Europe’s.

The plot is sheer nonsense, of course, but it’s not that which makes the movie unendurable; it’s the complete lack of wit or fun in the script by Tom O’Connor (who wrote the first movie alone, but here is “assisted” by Phillip and Brandon Murphy), combined with the chaotic action and the explosions of nasty violence. 

The stars try their hardest to inject some amusement, but to no avail.  Reynolds works frantically to make Bryce’s nervous tics and protests of his companions’ recklessness engaging, but it’s a one-note effort that grows irritating quickly.  Jackson is stuck playing his usual shtick—snide put-downs combined with wild horse laughs—with the volume turned up to 11 on a Spinal Tap amplifier.  And while Hayek gets two notes to play, either screeching banshee or seductive temptress—she’s become a pain in the posterior by the half-way point. 

On the support side, Freeman lends his customary smoothness to his scenes, but Grillo rants in the apparent belief that the lines he’s screaming are funny.  They’re not.  And then there’s Banderas, whose extravagant outfits and hairdo—and name, of course—are supposed to make the villain a laugh riot, but don’t.         

The only thing that saves this movie from the bottom of the barrel is the fact that it showcases some attractive European locations, nicely shot by cinematographer Terry Stacey, and a better-than-the-material-deserves production design by Russell De Rozario.  Certainly neither the hysterical editing by Jack Hitchings and Michael Duthie nor Atli Örvarsson’s equally overbearing score helps.  As for Patrick Hughes’s direction, it appears to have consisted in simply telling the actors to wring whatever laughs they could out of the wretched screenplay by any means necessary.

At a moment when theatres are finally reopening, one would like to encourage people starved for a multiplex experience to patronize them.  But of a dismal movie like this one, a critic can only advise: Don’t leave home to see it.