This spectacular Russo Brothers’ action movie, “The Gray Man,” wants very badly to be great. In order to do so, they have certainly put their money where their mouth is. The mouth in this case being a series of ridiculously spectacular action set pieces that attempt to one-up one another.
Into this mix comes the star wattage of Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Aramas, supported by Matrix Resurrections actress Jessica Henwick, Bridgerton breakout Rege Jean Page, Narcos star Wagner Moura, South Indian superstar Dhanush (making his Hollywood debut) and character actors Alfre Woodard and Billy Bob Thornton.
But (there is always a but) Joe and Anthony Russo, directors of the last two Avengers movies for Marvel, have strangely let something slip. That something is characters that we would actually care about being thrown into the melee of action that the brothers have concocted.
Based on Mark Greaney’s Gray Man thriller novels, the plot sees CIA black ops agent Sierra Six (Gosling) going on the run from a gleefully sociopathic mercenary Lloyd Hansen (played by a leering Chris Evans) after he comes into possession of corrupt secrets incriminating his superior Carmichael (Page).
For all the money the Russo’s have thrown at the screen, this is a rather joyless and perfunctory affair, with Gosling’s trademark glower substituting for any development of his character, and Evans turning on the snark that he first displayed in Knives Out to inform the inner workings of Evan Hansen.
The plot plays itself out in a pretty by-the-numbers style, with the bad guys and good guys fighting over a pint-sized McGuffin that provides the story with pretty much all its traction.
There are some stunning action scenes – most notably a series of gunplay and fisticuffs set in a Bangkok nightclub and a bruising sequence set on a train in Prague. But even in these, the filmmaker’s resort to too much editing and fancy camerawork, sacrificing clarity in the name of style, and there is always that whiff of digital artifice that coats scenes that have obvious CG elements to them.
By the time the inevitable showdown between Six and Hansen takes place, it feels like the film has gone through one action scene too many. In the end, I don’t think I remembered much by the way of a coherent narrative or interesting characters by the time the film ended.
I remembered only snippets of action. Maybe that’s enough for Netflix, but it doesn’t make a great film. Of course, in terms of the commerce of filmmaking, that doesn’t mean shit. But it doesn’t make the movie great, either.
Prasad Per Movie Rating for “The Gray Man” 4 / 10
Prasad Pereira is a Sri Lankan Director / Assistant Director with 2 decades experience in the media industry. He has worked in feature films by Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Deepa Mehta (Midnight’s Children) and Uberto Pasolini (Machan) among others, and in over 200 TV commercials to date. Please visit his website for more information.