Scorned assassin

July 31, 2022

The Gray Man is a new Netflix movie directed by the Russo Brothers of Avengers Endgame fame

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he Avengers masterminds, the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe Russo, have shepherded the most expensive action thriller film in Netflix history, adapted from a screenplay the latter co-wrote with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on the 2009 eponymous novel by Mark Greaney. This $200 million, mega-budget feature is predicted to become the next franchise tent-pole, attracting millions of viewers worldwide and leaving the current ones second-thinking their decision on paying for yet another month, or year, of the streaming service.

The director duo is adept at delivering big films. Joe and Anthony Russo unquestionably know a lot about blockbusters. After more than a decade of producing and co-directing TV shows, including several episodes of the popular comedies Community and Arrested Development (the latter won them an Emmy), they got a breakthrough with Disney, which propelled them to the mighty Marvel Avengers franchise.

Featuring a loaded, ensemble cast led by Ryan Gosling (Sierra Six), a CIA black ops assassin with a heart of gold who is forced to go on the run after uncovering incriminating secrets about the agency. Chris Evans (Lloyd Hansen), a psychopathic former CIA agent who is contracted by Carmichael to capture Six, and Ana de Armas (as Dani Miranda), a CIA agent who allies with Six, the film is big in every way.

In Sensibility, Gosling plays an off-the-books assassin trying to avoid getting killed by his own blandly bureaucratic but murderous bosses. The movie hits the ground running with a mission gone extremely askew when Six is tasked by a new boss named Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) with taking out a target that turns out to be a fellow secret agent. The dying man tells Six that Denny is a bad guy and hands him the intelligence to prove that. Immediately, our passive hero is on the run, with sociopathic former agent Lloyd Hansen hot on his trail. Aided by agent Dani Miranda and handler Donald Fitzroy, Six must be his most ruthless to avoid Hansen, who will go to any length to bring Six down, and retrieve an encrypted drive.

The film is a cracking piece of work, manoeuvring from Bangkok to Prague, Berlin to Baku, Vienna to Virginia, and Monaco, it rather merrily destroys cars, planes, trains and a few neighbourhoods, along the way.

Six manages to escape and heads to Vienna to receive more documents, but his contact Laszlo Sosa betrays him for the bounty. Rescued by Miranda, he convinces her to drive him to see Cahill, where she is able to decrypt the drive and discover the extent of Carmichael’s corruption (which includes unauthorised killings and instances of terrorism conducted with his knowledge and unsanctioned by the Agency) on behalf of a mysterious benefactor working for a shadow government.

The two then take refuge in a hospital where a mercenary, Lone Wolf, steals the drive for Hansen. Six and Miranda track down Claire through the wireless signal broadcast from her faulty pacemaker. Miranda creates a distraction as Six creeps into the mansion to rescue Fitzroy and Claire. Lone Wolf throws Miranda over in a fight sequence but on second thought drives her anyway, on account of his growing disillusionment with Hansen’s willingness to kill children and his lack of morality and honour.

The film is a cracking piece of work, manoeuvring from Bangkok to Prague, Berlin to Baku, Vienna to Virginia, and Monaco. Iit rather merrily destroys cars, planes, trains and a few neighbourhoods along the way. A vast C-5 cargo plane crumbles mid-air in an early set piece while a scuffle goes on inside. Gosling and de Armas feature a cool posturing, bickering over keyboard typing and gun-throwing etiquette. The film’s action sequences are a spectacle to watch, a product of European location shooting and the Russos’ natural inclination to go balls-to-the-wall with their staging of events. Realism may not be on their radars as we see a thrilling escape from a crashing plane and a midpoint shootout along the streets of Prague.

A lack of history between Six and Hansen is at once a major injustice and an empty promise in what amounts to a film let-down by the limited amount of screen time that’s actually shared between the leads. However, it does not seem like a big issue as the same treatment is accorded to the rest of the impressive ensemble.

The movie is sardonic, dark and fast-moving. It represents a refreshing way to approach storytelling. At a glance, with splashy stunts, plenty of combat, smoke and explosions, neon-lit nightclubs and flickering lights, stellar cast, showdown of wits, globe-trekking journeys between beautiful settings, and flashy visual confetti, The Gray Man has everything one can crave in a high-octane action movie.

The author is thepublishing editor at Liberty Books.

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