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The Gray Man (A Movie Review)


Starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton, Callan Mulvey, Eme Ikwuakor, Scott Haze, Michael Gandolfini, Sam Lerner, Robert Kazinsky, DeObia Oparei, Karen Jin, Martin Harris, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Aishwarya Sonar, Boone Platt and Daz Crawford.

Screenplay by Joe Russo and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.

Distributed by Netflix. 129 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Remember when action films actually had stories which made sense and a real sense of danger because the heroes were constantly in danger of death? Me either, it’s been a long time. The Gray Man is sort of the state-of-the-art in modern cartoonish action, a film in which the violence is so wildly over the top that eventually the whole enterprise seems ridiculous.

Sierra Six (Ryan Gosling), the anti-hero of this adrenaline rush which calls itself a film, is shot (multiple times), stabbed (also multiple times), survives car crashes, explosions, huge falls, being punched and kicked (over and over again), jumping from a crashing plane (without a parachute), nearly drowning and so many other poorly shot and edited hazards that I can’t even remember them all.

You’d think all that would kill a guy, or at the very least slow him down. However, Six is barely bruised, occasionally limping slightly, or getting a little cut, or slightly losing his breath. He seems to be indestructible, leaving a trail of bodies and ravaged cities behind him as entire groups of military assassins try, unsuccessfully, to take him out.

And why are they so desperate to kill this unkillable guy? I don’t know, it has something to do with a cute tween girl and an incriminating flash drive. I think.

Maybe they just don’t like him. Or maybe they just know that there would be no movie without them trying. I’ve got a secret for the Russo Brothers, there’s not much of a movie even with it. The Gray Man is basically what a Fast & Furious movie would be if they didn’t have a sense of humor about themselves.

Which is a shame, because there is the seed of an okay movie in The Gray Man before it goes completely off the rails and becomes a non-stop thrill ride.

The problem isn’t with the cast. It’s Ryan Gosling’s first movie in four years since First Man, and Chris Evans is always entertaining in his asshole mode (see also: Knives Out), and Ana de Armas is stunning, as always. It’s just none of them are really given much to do. Chris Evans’ character is particularly disappointing – yes, he’s an asshole, but he’s also completely incompetent (the character, not Evans). He’s supposed to be one of the most deadly, ruthless assassins in the world, but he doesn’t seem smart enough to kill a fly. And he mostly leaves the killing to others.

And there are lots of others. The Gray Man expends thousands of bullets, bombs, car crashes, etc. No one – criminals or lawmen alike – gives even a moment’s thought or hesitation to all of the potential innocent bystanders who could be killed by the thousands and thousands of rounds of gun fire. Entire cities are laid waste to, again in search of an aging contract killer, a little girl and a flash drive. No one in The Gray Man believes in subtlety.

It may have… maybe… possibly worked as an over-the-top goof, if not for the fact that the hand-held shaky cams and awful editing made the action scenes nearly impossible to follow, even if you wanted to. The directing Russo Brothers – who do have experience in big, blockbuster action films with their Marvel background (helming two Captain America films and two Avengers films) – seem to have totally lost their mojo here. Visually, this film is a mess.

Yet, it somehow fits in for Netflix, where it will be debuting next week after a limited theatrical run. Watching all this mayhem at home, without having to pay for tickets and parking and concessions, will make it easier to take. And easier to leave if you decide to go that way.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: July 14, 2022.

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