Few films manage to impress you from the get go. Most of it has to do with the trailer or its cast or its plot. When you check out the cast for The Gunman, you’ll see it has some heavyweights, namely Sean Penn, Ray Winstone, Idris Elba and Javier Bardem. So you go in, expecting a movie driven by excellent performances. In The Gunman’s case, however, it feels like walking blind-folded into an ambush.
The Gunman has been directed by Pierre Morel. Yup, the guy who directed Taken. This should be a good enough sign that there will be a very simple concept to the film and a whole lot of action to keep the action-nerds happy. But while Taken had Liam Neeson‘s excellent acting and dialogue-delivery to thank for its success, The Gunman falters from the very start thanks to its amazingly bored lead, Sean Penn.
Penn plays a covert assassin named Jim Terrior. He is a trained sniper, who is tasked to kill a powerful man in terror-ridden Congo. He succeeds in his mission and is back in Congo eight years later living a whole new life digging wells. But an attempt on his life convinces him that his past is back to haunt him. In the midst of all this, is Jim’s romantic involvement with a humanitarian doctor named Annie (Jasmine Trinca). Their romance does nothing for the story, except give someone for the bad guys to use as leverage later. But wait, Jim has a leverage of his own, and then the bad guys have some more leverage. It doesn’t stop here, no.
This film basically just stumbles clumsily from one scene to another, stretching the paper thin plot to an extent where it is completely transparent. You know who the villain is, what’s going to happen in the end an hour before the final scene. And when it finally does get to the climax, you’ll realize that you’ve dug your fingers deep into the armrest in agony. Such is the torture the movie inflicts on your body, mind and soul. It is too long, too familiar and has the wrong guy in the lead.
Sean Penn looks old and bored as ever. In great shape, yes, but supremely disinterested. This is surprising because he is actually credited for the screenplay. Idris Elba appears in a couple of scenes and is his usual sophisticated self, without adding or taking anything away from the plot. In this humongous mess of a movie, Ray Winstone’s character is the most realistic and grounded emotionally.
Now here’s why this movie has committed an unforgivable sin in my eyes: It cast Javier Bardem in a role which is way way beneath him. He plays a foolish drunk who has a thing for Annie, and though he tries his best in his role, you can see the struggle in his eyes.
The action bits are decent. Nothing out of the ordinary that will entertain you. The bad guys are the regular deal. Nothing striking about them either. So in the end, The Gunman does absolutely nothing for anyone. It could have been left unmade, and the world would have functioned just the same. It probably might help revive Sean Penn’s career. Maybe. Here’s hoping!
Why should you watch this film?
There are a few things in this world that are as painful as watching The Gunman. Getting your teeth and your fingernails pulled out simultaneously is what it really feels like. Avoid this movie like the plague. That said, there are a few good action sequences that are interesting. So if you don’t mind a slow and dull plot and prefer a decent action flick, then this film might just be your cup of tea.