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The Gunman

The Gunman: Penn Stars in Dull Action Flick

  • Idris ElbaJavier Bardem...
  • Action & AdventureMystery & Suspense...
  • Pierre Morel
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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The Gunman: Penn Stars in Dull Action Flick

Channelling his inner-Liam Neeson, if you will, multi Oscar-winning actor and occasional humanitarian, Sean Penn, dips his toes into what is a new type of emerging genre: geriaction. While it’s unlikely that Hollywood executives and actors will be using it anytime soon, the term refers to action films starring ‘aging actors’. At 54, Penn is no spring chicken, but the California native is in tip-top shape for Pierre Morel’s surprisingly flavourless and action-less thriller, The Gunman.

The story follows special operative Jim Terrier (Penn); a mercenary stationed in Congo who provides security services for mining operations.  During his time there, he meets and falls in love with a humanitarian-aid doctor, Annie (Trinca), who is also there offering medical support for those in need.  However, when asked to liquidate the local Minister of Mining by his shady bosses, Cox (Rylance) and Felix (Bardem), Terrier must oblige. Soon after carrying out the hit, he flees the country without as much as a goodbye to Annie.

Eight years later, Jim is once again in Congo and soon becomes the target of an unknown hit squad.  Barely making it out of there alive, he makes his way to London in order to seek out his old partners and see if they can help him figure out who is behind the mess. However, Jim’s digging and snooping is not entirely welcome and after finding his way to Annie once more, the wanted couple has no choice but to go on the run together to Barcelona where they hope to come up with a plan to get themselves out of the chaos.

One of the most surprising things about The Gunman is how its final onscreen realisation is nothing like what its trailers suggests. It’s painfully slow, very chatty – the dialogue is filled with political gobbledegook – and, in terms of action, well, there isn’t any. Apart from a couple of shockingly brutal and bloody exchanges, the rest of the story is pretty lifeless and uninspiring. On the upside, the film’s aesthetics – courtesy of cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano – is effective and its use of sharp and vibrant imagery adds the much-needed pizzazz to the story.

As for Mr. Penn, he spends most of the time trudging around looking bored, tired and oh yes, shirtless. His broodiness rarely translates into more than just looking plain expressionless. Then again, his stunt work is pretty impressive and there is a certain sense of gravitas that he brings to the table; unfortunately, just not enough energy to make us all care. 

Like This? Try

Taken (2008), Sabotage (2014), Homefront (2013)

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The story based on the novel, The Prone Gunman, written by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

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