REVIEW: The Gray Man – No John Wick
The Russo brothers’ second film, The Gray Man, is post- Avengers Endgame. Fitz (Billy Bob Thornton) offers Six (Ryan Gosling) a deal: Come work for the CIA, trained assassin. This will immediately commute his prison sentence. Six figures could live a little while he was on a mission, despite the death sentence he received for violating the CIA agreement. He says yes and is now one of the most respected in the industry.
One of his missions is a disaster. He’s forced to kill a fellow participant in the same program. He learns of the unsanctioned methods of Denny Carmichael (Rege Jean Page) and decides to give the drive along with all incriminating information to a friend rather than giving it to the CIA. In a desperate attempt to obtain the purpose, Carmichael sends Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a private contractor who doesn’t mind coloring outside the lines. Evans is the star here and seems to enjoy playing the criminal part. Evans is a master at chewing scenery, delivering every line and wearing the tightest pants in every scene.
Evans and Gosling have a lot of fun banter because Gosling is a reticent hero. Ana de Armas portrays Dani Miranda, a CIA agent caught in the middle of Six and Carmichael. This is a very one-note character. Despite being in many action sequences, none of them can match her one scene in No Time To Die. Jessica Henwick’s character Suzanne suffers the same fate. She doesn’t do much other than shout at Lloyd about his naivety. Even Rege Jean Page, charismatic by the truckloads, has little to no space here.
Like the Russo brothers’ previous movie Cheri, this style is too extravagant and can sometimes lead to chaos and confusion rather than tension and stakes.
This movie reminded me of an interview I did with John Badham about modern action movies. He spoke about Quantum of Solace specifically: “Unfortunately, we’re treated to an assaultive noise, sound, and crashes, which is fine, but we’re left with an empty feeling by the end; it’s just that it’s not as effective.” It is a shame that they have missed this point, considering all the work that went into making it.
This is how I feel about The Gray Man. Although there are many action scenes in the movie, very few, make an impact. The cast is amazing. Only two action scenes are noteworthy, the Prague scene and the fight between Six and Lloyd. While drone shots are great, everything else is just too much. Too much pink smoke and fireworks can make everything look blurry, so you must see most of it through your squinting glasses.
The plot is standard spy action stuff with the whole cat-and-mouse game between Six and Lloyd. Although flashbacks were used to introduce characters and relationships, the narration isn’t very well done, and it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the present and the past. It’s not always easy to see the point. Occasionally, past snippets are used to connect to the present. This makes it less impactful and more artificial.
While The Gray Man is a decent action movie on Netflix, it is not quite up there with the major leagues. If the franchise continues, I hope they’ll give it to another director so it can develop into something like James Bond or John Wick.