Don’t find it; don’t watch it.
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Jean-Patrick Manchette (novel; based on)
What To Expect
Disclaimer: The length of this paragraph is a testament to how much of their valuable time anyone should invest in Taken director Pierre Morel’s latest old-man-action flick, The Gunman.
Now ask yourself: is there a negative scale for expectation levels?
What’s it About?
In the incredibly unstable Democratic Republic of Congo, Jim (Sean Penn) is secretly an operative on a mission to assassinate the minister of mines, which is being led by Cox (Mark Rylance) and coordinated by Felix (Javier Bardem). Having to leave his life and his lover behind, Jim disappears after “Operation Cavalry.” Returning to Congo years later, he finds himself becoming the target of a hit squad, forcing him to flee on a run across Europe to absolve himself.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
French filmmaker Jean Renoir (The Southerner, 1945) is famously quoted to have said, “A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.”
Rather than looking at it with a limited scope, let’s assess this statement from the perspective of how a truly great director can (and should) reassemble their ideas into completely new concepts, much as we all do with Lego blocks. This isn’t to say that versatility is the only zest in life. What, however, disappoints for a start is how unoriginal Morel’s efforts in The Gunman seem – and its core concept being reminiscent of Taken is but only one of the many contributing factors.
Vantage Point director Pete Travis’s maiden attempt at writing a screenplay further adds to the dismay, offering little depth and understanding, yet an overly dramatic (and therefore redundant) sense of urgency. Frédéric Thoraval, who also edited Morel’s Taken, creates some heightened tension in a couple of well-edited action sequences. Unfortunately, though, that does not account for the draggy feel throughout the movie, and in no way makes it an intriguing experience.
And the absolute ugly? WHY in all of this commotion did they have to force a romance drama?! No, wait, WHY is this assassin being painted as a hero?! No, hang on, WHY are the filmmakers preaching political messages to us?! Yeah, okay; I don’t know what’s worse.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Nominated for 5 Oscars, winning 2 of them, Sean Penn’s (Mystic River) colorful career as an actor would do well to forget The Gunman. He isn’t below-par, but he is not at all relatable, nor is his Jim exploiting his abilities. His lover, Annie, played by Jasmine Trinca is sadly just a big question mark – no depth, no chemistry, so why? Javier Bardem bodes well as Felix, particularly in the second half of the film. However, he isn’t missed much during his absence. Mark Rylance tries hard to be coy as the ex-operation leader who has made peace with his actions in a rather forgettable display.
The one genuine figure in this narrative is Stanley, Jim’s well-connected and faithful buddy, whom long-time English veteran Ray Winstone gives warmth and amicability.
The verdict: Not really.
In a deep dark corner inside, I truly wish I could say that the efforts made by the filmmakers make for an enjoyable experience if one were to leave their brains behind at home. Sadly, even with zero expectations, The Gunman makes for a very poor watch.
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