Rating: 15 Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana De Armas, Billy Bob Thornton and Rege-Jean Page. Written by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Length: 122mins.
With an all-star cast led by Ryan Gosling as a CIA hitman on the run, The Gray Man feels like it’s set to challenge for action film of the year and with the Russo brothers at the helm most audiences lead with high expectations. You can definitely grasp the influence of other films in the choices behind many elements, but unfortunately it feels more like a ‘copy and paste’ of the filmmakers favourites rather than something fresh and exciting around moments of inspiration.
The plot is this – while in prison ‘six’ (Gosling) is approached and offered a chance at freedom if he agrees to train as a highly skilled assassin for the CIA, but when a mission goes wrong he finds himself being hunted and holding incriminating evidence of his employer and a game of cat and mouse ensues with no real surprises.
The writing lacks imagination and on a whole the film’s flimsy appearance manages to makes exotic locations feel cheap, and with some action scenes looking more like video game footage than thought through motion picture. At its centre is a tale where nearly every character feels cut from the cloth of a spy movie parody, exhibiting extreme stereotypes which just feels like a waste considering the talent that they had to play with.
The characters are the interesting part for me. With Six they attempt give him something of a heart, by introducing the complication of Fitz’s kidnapped niece but Six isn’t so much a person as he is a mixture of cinematic ideas, none of which are given space for Gosling to develop which seems ridiculous in a film of this length. Rege-Jean Page is a convincing bad guy who doesn’t want to get his hands dirty, Chris Evans is solid – not great but again with the cartoonish villian that he was given with the script I think he’s fine and Ana De Armas is brilliant in everything she does, but definitely one of the performers that was ‘wasted’ in this production. Her part could have had so much more intrigue and depth than it did.
The Gray Man is fine. It’s an okay action watch but is a product of too many conflicting approaches with no unifying vision, famous and talented faces that are capable of so much more and writing that lacks imagination. It was significantly too long for me and I found I didn’t really care for the plot and therefore disengaged with the film fairly early on.