Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Rege-Jean Page, Dhanush, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Alfre Woodard, and Billy Bob Thornton
Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
hat do you get when you put together a US$200 million budget, two of the most reliable stars in Hollywood, and the filmmakers who helmed the highest grossing film of all time?
Do you end up with an ambitious action drama, an inventive thrill ride, a riveting cinematic masterpiece?
Well, not quite.
What you do get instead is two hours of bland dullness that pieces together a series of chaotic action set pieces with a yawn and a shrug.
The protagonist is Ryan Gosling’s Six, a prisoner recruited to the CIA black ops Sierra program as part of a deal that gives him his freedom in exchange for working as an assassin. But when he is directed to kill a fellow Sierra operative, he uncovers incriminating secrets about the agency and comes in possession of damning evidence detailing the corruption of a CIA official (Rege-Jean Page)…
…who then hires the antagonist, Chris Evan’s Lloyd, an over-the-top psychopathic killer, to capture Six and eliminate the threat.
Action of all variety ensues. Does how things unfold make sense? Not really. But here’s an action sequence – and another one, and another one! – to distract you from the nonsense of it all.
Some of the set pieces (an escape from a trap-doored pit, a shootout aided by a reflective window) are more inventive than others (A hedge maze? Really?), but most of them are drenched in action flick tropes.
Both the leads practically ooze charisma, but their characters – be it Gosling’s generic action hero or Evan’s smirking moustachioed villain – feel more like caricatures than convincing humans, the lack of depth making it hard to connect with either. Seasoned performers like Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard, who play Six’s mentors, leave a mark despite limited screen time, whereas the far less convincing Ana de Armas, who plays an agent allied with Six, struggles to bring any gravitas or memorability to her character despite having a bigger role and being a part of fairly well-choreographed action sequences.
The globetrotting element feels wasted too, the jump from country to country feeling pointless given that the locations bring nothing to the drama and feel irrelevant to the actual story.
The Gray Man’s very competent leads will help you while away a lazy summer afternoon without succumbing to boredom, especially if you are in the mood for a James Bond, Jason Bourne, John Wick amalgamation (sans the entertainment value of any of these far better properties). And this is definitely recommended viewing if you want to watch Netflix waste $200 million yet again on a subpar script. How else are you going to shake your head in disappointment/disapproval/disbelief as they order its sequel?
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only
*** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection