Friday Film Review -- "The Gray Man" 7-22-22
Save yourself the popcorn money and plan to watch The Gray Man from the comfort of your own home.
This week’s film is The Gray Man, a new high octane action film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo. Ryan Gosling headlines a great cast as a secret agent called Six, an imprisoned murderer recruited by the CIA to be an assassin in exchange for getting his prison sentence commuted.
The opening scene is compelling. The CIA recruiter is played by Billy Bob Thornton, whose deadpan delivery is perfect for the required bullying and sarcasm delivered with just enough crazy yet avoids actually sounding psycho. It’s a scene we’ve watched many times before given the tiresome popularity of the myth of the good-natured outlaw given one last chance to win freedom by serving the system– best executed in La Femme Nakita. Unfortunately, it is the best scene in The Gray Man.
Fast forward 18 years and Six remains the CIA’s most deadly assassin. Six is deployed to kill another agent, who turns out to have information implicating mission control at the CIA. Six reluctantly takes possession of the info, making him now the target the agency. The agency brings in free-lance killer Lloyd, played by Chris Evans, sporting a ridiculous bad-guy mustache complimentary of his sleezy personality. A cat and mouse hunt ensues which is filmed on location around the world, except there is no real hunt as the tracking is all too easy. But the problem is the Russo Brothers don’t commit to what kind of film they are making. The script tries to be funny but fails to sustain true self-parody. The spy devices and characters are surprisingly hollow depriving the audience of any new thrills or attachment to care who wins. Ana de Armas and Alfre Woodard are underutilized in supporting secret agent roles, adding to the lost potential of what could have been.
So, on my ski trail rating system, The Gray Man earns my intermediate BLUE trail rating. The film delivers just enough creative fight choreography and agent banter in the script to satisfy those bored with re-watching John Wick sequels repeatedly. Ryan Gosling’s embodiment of perpetual intolerance for systematic BS demonstrates he could have been the perfect anti-hero for a new generation of spy fans, but Chris Evans fails to inspire as a bad guy. So, unless Parley’s canyon is closed by an accident and you need to kill two hours stuck in the valley, wait for a rainy day, and watch it on Netflix- even then only if you can’t find Three Days of the Condor.
The Gray Man is rated PG-13 for strong violence, language and a bad ‘stache. The Gray Man is playing in theaters but becomes available on Netflix this weekend.
This is Mark Harrington for KPCW’s Friday Film Review.