Movie Review: The Gray Man
Reportedly the most expensive movie Netflix has ever made with a budget of $US200 million, The Gray Man is a star-studded, high-octane action blockbuster that never lets up. It is gripping and entertaining, and it’s loud and bombastic. It’s also totally brainless, requiring very few IQ points to appreciate its entire proposition.
The Gray Man really begs the question, does an action movie need to have some deeper meaning, making full use of the dramatic range of its megatalented cast or is it enough that it thrills and captivates?
If the movie can make you physically react – say, wince at a brutal kick to the face or make your eyes pop at a complex, Rube Goldberg-esque explosive setpiece – then does it matter that its characters aren’t particularly well defined as little more than “psychopath” and “psychopath’s target”?
When the action is well-staged, and the actors are charismatic, and where the plot and machinations aren’t trying to be too clever for it to handle, then, for the purposes of this movie, at least, it’s enough.
That doesn’t mean The Gray Man is a fantastic film, but it does mean it’s serviceable. And there is plenty of basic enjoyment to be wrung from serviceable.
The plot is simple enough. Gosling plays a character called Court Gentry, codenamed Sierra Six. He’s part of a clandestine network of assassins quietly employed by the CIA to do its dirty work.
Six is an efficient killer – he doesn’t ask questions, wears the splashy red suit he’s told to adorn and gets the job done. It’s the slight wavering on that last count that lands him in trouble on his latest mission.
While on assignment, Six comes across some compromising information that his boss Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page) really doesn’t want to be made public.
Carmichael enlists Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to take Six out – and just to be clear, he’s not taking him out for dinner.
Lloyd is the psychopath in question. Flashy, overly confident and fond of tight-fitting jeans, Lloyd doesn’t believe in morality or temperance. There is no line he won’t cross, no one he will not exploit to achieve his means.
The Gray Man is essentially a playful twohour chase between two marquee stars.
Gosling is doing the taciturn but not-a-robot action anti-hero he’s perfected in previous outings such as Drive and Blade Runner 2049 (although in the case of the latter, he literally was a robot) – and he is always compelling to watch, while Evans gleefully hams it up in a performance that’s verging on camp — it works.
The Gray Man convincingly makes the argument that they’re evenly matched, and if it wasn’t for storytelling conventions that the amoral villain must lose, it could have gone either way.
There are supporting characters thrown in to occasionally gummy up the works or boost the emotional stakes. It’s almost a waste to have a supporting cast that’s as glitzy as Ana de Armas, Page, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, Wagner Moura and Jessica Henwick. Still, it adds to the movie’s overall allure.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the filmmaking brothers behind a raft of Marvel movies, including Avengers: Endgame, The Gray Man, showcases its helmers’ aptitude for a good action sequence.
The set-pieces range from colossal all-in gunfights to intimate hand-tohand combat, and it’s all engaging. So maybe it doesn’t matter that The Gray Man, ultimately, has nothing to say and does nothing new.
Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.