The Hitman's Bodyguard ★★

This won’t be news for anyone who’s seen a movie — any movie — in the last 30 years, but Samuel L. Jackson sure loves to say “motherfucker.” For most of us, it’s just a swear word, but for him it’s an instrument. For the length of those four syllables, he’s less of an actor than he is a bonafide artisan. Yo-Yo Ma has a cello, Wayne Gretzky has a hockey stick, and Samuel L. Jackson has an expletive. What does it mean? Well, it can mean everything and nothing; it can be a threat, a term of endearment, or whatever else the moment calls for. For Samuel L. Jackson, it’s usually just a cold-blooded thing to say before he pops a cap in someone’s ass.

Musician Annie Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent, recently gave an interview in which she proffered that “‘Motherfucker’ says, like, I know you inside and out. And you know me. Don’t pretend.” There’s something very true about that. When Samuel L. Jackson utters “motherfucker,” he’s like a Pokémon announcing its own name. He’s saying “you know who I am, and you’re here to see me do my thing.”

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