THE GRAY MAN (NETFLIX) (2022)
SYNOPSIS: THE GRAY MAN is CIA operative Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling), aka, Sierra Six. Plucked from a federal penitentiary and recruited by his handler, Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), Gentry was once a highly-skilled, Agency-sanctioned merchant of death. But now the tables have turned and Six is the target, hunted across the globe by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a former cohort at the CIA, who will stop at nothing to take him out. Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) has his back. He’ll need it.
While Tom Cruise is risking his life by hanging onto a moving plane in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Ryan Gosling on the other hand has to escape from a preposterous CG enhanced plane crashing scene in The Gray Man. Honestly, we have nothing but disdain for such computerised mayhem. It’s perhaps more fitting for a Marvel superhero movie than a supposedly grounded spy action thriller.
Ryan stars as Sierra Six, a convicted murderer who now works as an assassin for CIA under handler, Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton). Years later, Six is assigned to Bangkok to assassinate a target suspected of selling national secrets. Before the target dies, he revealed himself to be Sierra Four and handed over an encrypted drive containing the corruption antics of an CIA officer and his buddy.
Refusing to handover the drive to rising CIA officer Denny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page), Six finds himself targeted by a ruthless mercenary Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) and his cohort of assassins. Partnering with a CIA field agent, Dani (Ana de Armas), Six must rescue his former retired handler and his niece and fight his way out of the corrupt system.
A long gestating project which sees stars liked Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron being attached and dropped, The Gray Man is helmed by the Russo brothers who of course best known for directing two Captain American outings and Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Their post MCU projects have been pretty mediocre and forgettable and this one co-written by Joe Russo and their frequent collaborators, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely fails yet again to make the mark.
For a spy movie based on a 464 pages novel by Mark Greaney, the entire storyline has been reduced to an embarrassing rescue mission that takes them from Prague to Vienna to France. Globetrotting as they called it. Sierra Six could potentially be the American version of James Bond but the Russos took a much simplified route turning the entire affair into a loud, aimless exercise sacrificing complex plotting for CGI explosions and brainless exposition.
Not that the action sequences are well-executed in any way. In fact, the Russos’ produced Extraction fares much better in this aspect. The Gray Man relies a lot on quick cuts, dark background and swirling camera moves to emphasise the intensity of the action although it seems like the filmmakers have not much faith in their leading man, Ryan Gosling. Still, Gosling as usual entertains with his charisma and looks. And with Evans hamming it up as the sociopath fixer Lloyd, these two gentlemen certainly makes this expensive Netflix produced title at least watchable.
There’s no lack of female pretty faces here as well. Ana de Armas returns to kick ass after her standout appearance in No Time To Die, while Jessica Henwick last seen in The Matrix Resurrections plays an ambitious CIA agent. With a few jokes, one targeted at 007 and the other at Gosling’s coming take as Ken in the live-action Barbie movie, The Gray Man is sufficient enough as an generic action movie on the small screen. However if Netflix hopes this is going to be the first instalment of a successful franchise, then the Russos or whoever is taking over next needs to work way harder.
Review by Linus Tee