Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Premise: A CIA assassin (Ryan Gosling) discovers a corrupt agency operation. CIA officials hire a private military contractor (Chris Evans) to kill him.
What Works: The Gray Man features Chris Evans as a former CIA assassin who now works in the private sector. Evans plays the one interesting character in the film. Despite portraying the altruistic Captain America for many years, Evans has a knack for playing vicious and narcissistic characters and a talent for comedy. Nearly everyone in The Gray Man is a killer but Evans successfully distinguishes himself as a villain and the movie picks up whenever he is on screen.
What Doesn’t: In recent years there has been a glut of assassin movies including John Wick and Sicario and Kate among many others. Several of these films have patterned themselves after 1994’s Leon: The Professional in which a seasoned assassin is paired with a youngster and must be both killer and protector. The Gray Man is yet another iteration of that formula. The villains take a young woman (Julia Butters) hostage, requiring our hero to come to the rescue. Beyond being a cliché, The Gray Man doesn’t do anything with that concept. Other movies of this type pair an assassin with a child to bond the characters together and the assassin grows to become empathic and nurturing. Nothing like that happens in The Gray Man. Nothing gets affirmed and nothing meaningful is won or lost. The film is just an empty collection of action set pieces. Part of the problem is the filmmakers’ lack of interest in their characters. With the exception of Chris Evans’ villain, nobody has any personality or defining character traits. The performances are not very good, in particular Ryan Gosling. He is so detached from the action or the stakes of any given scene that his performance actually makes the action less interesting. There are moments in which Gosling’s character gets stabbed and shot and he doesn’t even wince. This disconnect occurs throughout the picture. People get killed or shot at but they don’t react at all, not even the child. The action of The Gray Man isn’t remarkable either. With the exception of one major chase and shootout sequence, the set pieces of The Gray Man are not all that spectacular and they don’t have the style or the craftsmanship we’ve seen in other contemporary action pictures.
DVD extras: Available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: The Gray Man is a middling action film that never shakes the feeling that we’ve seen all this before. Its good enough for Netflix, meaning that The Gray Man is the kind of film to be watched while folding laundry, but its entirely unmemorable and unextraordinary.
Episode: #911 (July 31, 2022)