Friday, March 20

REVIEW: The Gunman

Directed by Pierre Morel
2015 Action-Thriller
1 hour 55 minutes
From Open Road and Studio Canal

Sean Penn
Jasmine Trinca
Javier Bardem
Ray Winstone
Mark Rylance
Idris Elba

The title should have been The Sean Penn Action Show.  He is the only one listed above the title.  He co-produced and co-scripted.  He is in virtually every scene.  The only one to even come close to his screen time is Jasmine Trinca.  Idris Elba doesn't appear on the scene until it is almost over.  If you're coming for him, you're going to be very disappointed.

You may be disappointed anyway.  There are a few points of interest, a scene here or there, but when it's all added up, it feels like a run-of-the-mill action-thriller which you have seen a gazillion times before and done better.  

The director, Pierre Morel, is a former cinematographer who took to directing in Liam Neeson's Taken, so he has some experience with middle-aged actors in the action genre.  I hope this is just an AARP phase we're all going through and that we will soon get back to hunky actors under 40... way under 40 if possible.  Speaking of hunky, 55-year old Penn has a number of scenes with his shirt off and he is buff although his muscles look like he was working out when they called for action.

I can see where maybe Penn was attracted to the project in the first place because the word humanitarian is tossed around a bit, particularly in the first third.  Or maybe with co-writing the script, he put the word in himself.  My hunch is that he took on this work because of so much real-life humanitarian work (bless you, man)and the bank balance had gotten low.  Unfortunately, The Gunman will not be remembered as one of his more moving roles.

The story begins in the Congo where Penn is an American sniper pretending to provide security for a humanitarian detail but in fact is out to assassinate the minister of mines.  He has a girlfriend who works in the humanitarian group but he must leave her and the Congo to go into hiding after he pulls of the killing.

Years later he is back in the Congo, this time working in a humanitarian capacity when an attempt is made on his life.  So he flees to London to talk it over with a business associate and again must dodge some bullets.  He then goes to Barcelona where he is united with his girlfriend now married to another man involved in the killing of the minister.  While visiting their home, he looks out a window and sees armed men running toward the house.  The husband is killed and the pair somehow manage to run off.  I say somehow because, let's face it with this genre, credibility needs tweaking a bit to make it all seem plausible.

The couple winds up in Barcelona, still trying to figure out who is out to get him, while dodging bullets and knives and bulls.  The final scene takes place at a bullfight and I found it to be the most exciting piece of all... still working on plausibility... but I was so there.

Penn had one look throughout the entire two hours... grim.  I know it's his standard look on and off the screen but couldn't he look a little tender in the romantic scenes, maybe smile a little?  Isn't that part of acting?

Trinca, an Italian actress I've never heard of, was the best thing about the movie.  The male actors, apart from Penn, didn't get much screen time and one wonders what the attraction was to this script.  A paycheck?  Working with Penn?

This should have been a Jason Statham movie and Penn should have taken Charlize Theron off to the Middle East where they could have done some good.

The Directors

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