THE GUNMAN – The Review
Aloha, Mr. Hand! The grades are in and Sean Penn has not passed his ‘Basic Action Hero’ class. As Penn sneers and scowls his way through the routine globe-hopping hitman adventure THE GUNMAN, his angry, sour puss sucks all of the joy out of every scene. Penn plays Martin Terrier (Martin Pitbull would be more badass!), an ex-special forces operative turned hired hitman working for one of those unnamed outfits that hires ex-special forces operatives turned hired hitmen. He’s good at his job, but he’s one miserable guy and his heart really isn’t into killing. All he wants is some tasty waves, a cool buzz and to settle down with his sweetheart, the French doctor Annie played by Jasmine Trica. Terrier is introduced doing mercenary work in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His local connection Felix (Javier Bardem) is the go-between when Terrier is contracted to assassinate the country’s minister of mining. After that hit, he is forced to leave the Congo, leaving behind political chaos, genocide, and the lovely Annie, who Felix has his eyes on.
THE GUNMAN starts off well enough. Director Pierre Morel establishes a gritty visual aesthetic and well-presents the central characters. The story unsteadily jumps ahead seven years. Terrier has returned to the Congo to provide security to well-diggers. He survives a murder attempt, then spends the rest of the film angrily searching for whoever had him targeted. From this setup, the story hurries through a predictable string of standoffs, ambushes, chases and gun battles across London, Gibraltar, and Spain. Terrier battles not only an endless supply of foreign goons but also acute brain damage which compels him to stumble around dazed at critical moments. Former allies Cox (Mark Rylance) and Stanley (Ray Winstone) figure in the plot which is complicated without being complex or intriguing. There’s suspense in that opening assassination scene but the rest of the action is lackluster, dovetailing into an anticlimactic finale that takes place in Barcelona, therefore must be set at the La Monumental bullfighting ring.
Sean Penn just seems annoyed in the lead, like he’d rather be anywhere else and his bulked-up physique, with all those veiny, oily muscles he keeps dropping his shirt to show off, is kinda creepy. A successful action star must find a way to show that he’s having a good time blowing people away and look cool while doing it (that’s what the whole EXPENDABLES franchise is about), but Penn is a such a drag. Better is Javier Bardem who continues his mugging from THE COUNSELOR, but at least he’s having fun. Rylance and Winstone are always good as is Idris Elba when he finally shows up in a small bit as an Interpol agent. THE GUNMAN does indeed present an ensemble of good actors trying to kill each other. Problem is, it all adds up to a serviceable thriller but nothing more. If your action standards are low, you may dig the R-rated carnage, and having a villain dispatched by a charging bull was a nice cheesy touch, but I really don’t recommend THE GUNMAN.
2 of 5 Stars