The Hitman’s Bodyguard’s Wife, initially slated for August 27, 2020 and then shifted to August 20, 2021, will now open theatrically on June 16, 2021. The Millennium Media production, again directed by Patrick Hughes (Expendables 3 and Red Hill), is a sequel to Lionsgate’s buzzy and leggy The Hitman’s Bodyguard which opened with $21 million in August of 2017 and legged out to $75 million domestic and $176 million worldwide on a $30 million budget.
Aside from being a relatively enjoyable high-concept action comedy, it also marked the first mainstream starring vehicle for Samuel L. Jackson after a decade propping up the likes of Iron Man 2, Skull Island, Kingsman: The Secret Service and Django Unchained as Hollywood’s most valuable supporting player. It wasn’t quite a generational coronation, but folks were clearly happy to see him back in the driver’s seat.
In a world where new-to-cinemas (let alone entirely original) franchises are hard to come by, Lionsgate has five ongoing examples over the last decade with Now You See Me, John Wick, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Wonder and Knives Out. This installment bumps Salma Hayek (who stole several scenes and boasted at that year’s CinemaCon about eventually getting a sequel all about her) to the title character and adds Antonio Banderas (as a vengeful and powerful madman) and Morgan Freeman (as, to quote the press release, “well, you’ll have to see”) to the mix.
That’s a hell of a cast, but will the movie be better than (to paraphrase an old Gene Siskel joke) a documentary of them all having lunch together? In normal times, I’d wonder whether the star-packed continuation of a well-liked and post-theatrical-friendly (edited-for-TV cuts notwithstanding, it plays just fine on a Sunday afternoon on TNT or FX) original might spawn a “breakout sequel” the next time out. It has some elements of a successful studio programmer (escapism and an all-star cast), although the first film broke out despite mixed-negative reviews (a rare summer flick to do so in a season where everyone was newly obsessed with Rotten Tomatoes).
Hughes isn’t a marquee name, but he’s got the chops. Expendables 3 going PG-13 wasn’t his call and Red Hill is a solid little action drama. In normal times a $225 million finish on a $50 million budget wouldn’t be absurd. No one is talking a John Wick-level bounce, but even Kingsman: The Golden Circle did about as well ($100 million domestic and $411 million global) as its predecessor ($128 million/$414 million). As for the date change, well, Disney just moved Ryan Reynolds’ Free Guy to August 13, so this was somewhat inevitable. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is exactly the kind of movie that could have been successful counterprogramming against Pixar’s Luca had Disney not sent the film (in participating territories) to Disney+ instead of a planned December 18 theatrical debut.
In saner times, it would have joined the likes of Wanted (against Wall-E), World War Z (against Monsters University) and Central Intelligence (against Finding Dory). In this Covid summer, I’d argue the Wednesday debut is less about building word-of-mouth and more about A) getting two days before F9 on June 25 and B) spreading out the potential audience for moviegoers who want to go but don’t want to risk a crowded theater to do so. We may see more of that over the summer, including this week’s pre-summer launch of Godzilla Vs. Kong on March 31 as opposed to April 2.
With less emphasis on opening weekends studios can spread out the “opening” so that audiences who want to see the movie quickly can feel safer doing so. So, for those keeping track, here’s the current summer movie release schedule. Of note, A) there’s still nothing on May 21 (that pre-Memorial Day weekend frame is one of the very best slots on a conventional calendar) and B) the most crowded slot of the summer is now Labor Day weekend.
The Wrath of Man (MGM)
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Warner Bros/HBO Max)
Cruella (Disney/Disney+ Premier Access)
A Quiet Place II (Paramount)
Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (New Line/HBO Max)
Spirit Untamed (DreamWorks Animation/Universal)
In the Heights (Warner Bros/HBO Max)
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (Lionsgate)
Top Gun: Maverick (Paramount)
Black Widow (Disney/Disney+ Premier Access)
The Forever Purge (Universal/Blumhouse)
The Night House (Searchlight)
Space Jam: A New Legacy (Warner Bros/HBO Max)
Jungle Cruise (Disney)
The Green Knight (A24)
Hotel Transylvania 4 (Sony)
The Suicide Squad (Warner Bros/HBO Max)
Don’t Breathe 2 (Screen Gems)
Free Guy (20th Century Pictures)
Paw Patrol (Paramount)
The Beatles: Get Back (Disney)
Resident Evil: Raccoon City (Screen Gems)
Reminiscence (Warner Bros/HBO Max)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Disney)