TL;DR – A perfectly serviceable if messy action film but one that struggles to find an identity.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Netflix service that viewed this film.
The Gray Man Review –
You can feel that Netflix is a company going through an identity issue. No longer is it just ‘the place where you go for binging streaming content’ because others are doing it just as well, and now even the concept of binging has lost its value. So what we are getting are things being cancelled left, right and centre, but then $200 million being dropped on big-name films. I am not sure how this will go for the company, but we are getting to see the results of this tonight with The Gray Man.
So to set the scene, we opened in 2003 in a state prison in Florida, where Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) of the CIA is here to recruit Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling). He is looking for people to add to his black-ops team, whose central role is assassinations in the ‘grey’. Eighteen years later, in Bangkok, Court is now Sierra Six and is one of the CIA’s best assists in the field, where he takes an op from Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas). It is a time-sensitive mission to take out Dining Car (Callan Mulvey), which is why they are using Six. But when he won’t risk the collateral of children, things start spiralling out of control, and then Six discovers that the mark Dining Car is Sierra Four and that his boss Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), might not be on the up and up.
As this is an action film, we should probably take a look at that action, which is fine. The reality for this film is that the action wildly oscillates between being messy and reasonably serviceable. One of the more significant issues at the start of the film is that most of the action takes place obscured by particulate matter, which might work in a movie on the big screen, but on Netflix, it is a mess. This is not helped by the compositing not being finalised in some scenes. It is also not supported by some of the action scenes reminding me of better films, for example, jumping out of a plane to get a parachute from someone else who has already jumped.
The action does take a turn for the better in the extensive action sequence in Prague that takes up most of the 2nd act. However, at its core, it shows one of the film’s central issues: it does not seem to have an identity. Is it a straight Spy v Spy film? Is it an irreverent farse? Is it a government conspiracy? Is it not going to explain much because it wants to hint about a sequel? Okay, it is definitely that last one, but not much more. For example, there is a moment when three teams come to hunt the protagonist down, and for all the setup, they were just a bland copy and paste.
What elevates this film out of the mess and into something that can be entertaining is a cast making the most of every moment. Chris Evans is continuing to pivot as far away as possible from being America’s arse; frankly, it works. I am not sure what energy he used here, but it suited his role. It was nice to see Ana de Armas take on a more decisive role in the action after her stand-out moment in No Time to Die. It also feels like Ryan Gosling is channelling his performance from Blade Runner 2049 but with a bit more humanity and candour. I should also say that if anyone makes a stand-out performance, it would be Dhanush as Avik San. Also, Prague kind of makes everything look a bit better as you are exploding trams through the city streets.
In the end, do we recommend The Gray Man? On the whole, this is a generic but serviceable action flick, and on that measure, it will not waste your time completely. It is unfortunate that with so much money, it just lacks any real identity. If you liked The Gray Man, I would recommend to you The Old Guard.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Gray Man
Directed by –Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Screenplay by – Joe Russo, Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Based on – The Gray Man by Mark Greaney
Music by – Henry Jackman
Cinematography by – Stephen F. Windon
Edited by – Jeff Growth & Pietro Scalia
Production/Distribution Companies – AGBO, Roth/Kirschenbaum Films & Netflix
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, Robert Kazinsky, DeObia Oparei & Shea Whigham
Rating – Australia: MA15+