A rip-roaring action romp that is one of Netflix’s best original movies
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo have found great success within the MCU but outside of the comic book flicks they have brought to the screen, their career hasn’t exactly been full of movie successes. Their first movie, Welcome To Collinwood, was certainly watchable but despite the presence of George Clooney, it wasn’t exactly a big hit. And their second movie as directors, the Owen-Wilson starring comedy You, Me and Dupree, was a pretty weak effort that failed to tickle the funny bone.
Thankfully, their next movie was the excellent Captain America: Winter Soldier and they followed this with up with the blockbuster Avenger movies that ended Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a result of these successes, the expectation for their next movie, Cherry, was very high, but while I personally enjoyed it, not many critics shared my positive opinion.
So, what about The Gray Man? Once again, expectations have been high but because the directors’ movies outside of the MCU have largely disappointed, there was no guarantee that this would be an Avengers-style hit.
Thankfully, I’m happy to report that their latest movie is actually pretty good. It’s not on the same level as their superhero extravaganzas but it’s certainly a step up from their other movies and is worth a watch if you like spy thrillers with heavy doses of action. Ryan Gosling stars as super slick killing machine Sierra 6 (real-name Courtland Gentry) and if you’re a fan of the star, you will have extra reason to watch this globetrotting romp.
The weakest part of the movie is the plot, as it plays strictly to formula and offers very few surprises. Gosling’s character, who is serving time in prison for murder at the start of the story, is recruited and trained by the CIA to silently dispatch the ruthless bad guys that Uncle Sam wants to do away with.
But as is usual in movies of this type, he is eventually forced to go rogue when the agency turns against him (for reasons I won’t disclose here for fear of spoilers) and he has to fight for his life when a mercenary is sent out to dispatch him by any means necessary.
Both the Mission Impossible and the Bourne movies have followed this formula and there are many other movies out there, Salt and Licence To Kill included, that have featured rogue agent plotlines. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a movie being formulaic if it can stand out in other ways, and mercifully, The Gray Man is able to rise above its tired story with some standout action sequences.
After a scene at the start of the movie in which Gentry escapes from the police after being handcuffed to a bench, we get a bullet-laden chase scene through Prague, followed by other exhilarating action scenes both on the ground and in the air. Gosling excels in the role and in some of the movie’s cooler moments, he manages to give John Wick a run for his money. He is convincing as both an action hero and a tortured soul with a tragic family history, and he’s compelling to watch as he battles bad guys, bonds with a girl that he was once protector for, and swaggers around the screen in a sharp scarlet suit looking every inch the badass that he was trained to be.
There is no word yet on a sequel to this movie but if it does prove to be a hit with Netflix audiences, this could be the start of a very exciting franchise. There are currently ten books (with at least one more on the way) about Courtland Gentry so there is certainly scope for Gosling to become the next big action star. He has the talents and the looks to match Bond, Bourne, and all of the other heroes that have graced our screens, so it would be a disappointment if this was his only go-round as the suave assassin of the title.
Gosling isn’t the only actor to impress in the movie as he is well-matched by Chris Evans, playing against type as Lloyd Hansen, the mercenary ordered to take him down by Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), a shady figure working high up within the CIA. As Hansen, Evans is suitably slimy and smarmy and is the direct antithesis of the Captain America persona that he has now become most associated with. Unlike Gentry, Hansen doesn’t have a great deal of backstory but this rarely matters, as we care more about him getting his ass kicked than learning about his past career achievements.
Evans delivers in the action stakes as does Ana de Armas who takes on the role of Dani Miranda, a CIA agent who takes it upon herself to support Gentry after he goes rogue. She has other things to worry about, such as some dodgy goings-on within her department, but these take a backseat to the action hijinks that she and her male co-stars take part in.
In many ways, this is a summer popcorn movie that can be watched at home rather than in the cinema although you may have the option to watch it on the big screen as it has been released theatrically too.
As a Netflix Original movie, it’s certainly one of the better offerings the streaming service has put money into and is a lot less cheesy than the similarly big-budgeted Red Notice which was a fun but dumb action thriller. This one stands out because of its great cast, which also includes Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard, and the expert directing of the Russo Brothers, who deliver several exciting set-pieces.
This isn’t a movie that will ever be considered an action classic but for the most part, it is an entertaining watch and can be recommended, despite the stale plot elements that may infuriate some.
I had a good time with this and provided you don’t expect a lot of brains over brawn, you might enjoy this too. It’s one of Netflix’s priciest movies and for once, it is worth the high production costs and our increased subscription expenses.
Read More: The Gray Man Ending Explained
Verdict - 7.5/10