Monday, July 25, 2022

The Gray Man

Movie Name:
The Gray Man
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Rene-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Shea Whigham, Robert Kazinsky
Genre: Action, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 2
Watch it on Netflix

Synopsis and Review
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo are back, following "Cherry" which they tackled for Apple's streaming service. "The Gray Man" is an adaptation of a book by Mark Greaney, and follows the story of a man by the code name of Six, whom we first encounter being recruited for a special undercover program, after being sentenced to jail for a particularly violent crime. Onwards a few years and Six as it turns out, is one of the most efficient agents of that secret initiative. In his latest assignment, he is given the directive to avoid a transaction taking place and take a particular target down. Things don't go quite so well, but much to Six's surprise, his target is another agent whom he doesn't know from his agency, under the name Four. Before dying, this individual tells him to take an encrypted drive, which contains data exposing the corruption going on in his agency, which traces itself to the people who are his actual bosses. His bosses intent on getting that drive back, unsuccessfully try to kill Six with their own team, and soon resort to hiring Lloyd Hansen, a former agent kicked out of the agency for being too violent. Six in the meantime becomes a worldwide target, since Hansen puts a bounty on his head, and as Six tries to elude his pursuers, his only assistance comes from Miranda, who has already been a good partner in a prior mission. Hansen however also holds a special trick up his sleeve, and is determined to get that drive and capture/kill Six.
"The Gray Man" is another Netflix production, one of their most expensive thus far, and yet it feels very much like a spy film from the 80s/90s that is essentially a mash of far better and more interesting films. There are elements of Luc Besson's "Nikita", Doug Liman's "The Bourne Identity", Richard Donner's "Assassins", Chad Stahelski's "John Wick" and even dashes of John McTiernan's "Die Hard" series peppered throughout this narrative, with obvious references also to Anthony and Joe Russo's own work in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier". All this to say, this film doesn't feel necessarily fresh or particularly distinctive, even if the directors did manage to hire a fantastic cast to bring this narrative to life. The main issue with the film is the fact that for all its mayhem and destruction, the film ultimately doesn't have much at its core in terms of character motivation or even much in terms of actually defining who these characters are. Whereas Jason Bourne's motivation in that series was to recover his memory and understand who he was, Six's motivation is the rescue of the niece of his mentor, and his nemesis who is simply established as deranged, quickly hates him with a passion. There isn't much subtlety in this film, and everything goes mechanically from one set piece to the next, as if the directors have failed to realize all the excellent work that Christopher McQuarrie for instance has done with the "Mission: Impossible" series, where there's a logic and a progressive momentum for what is occurring onscreen. The cast fails to bring much to the film, with Ryan Gosling tracing some aspects from his previous characters such as Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive" to his vision of whom Six is, whereas Chris Evans just repeats some of his prior performances but without much nuance and Ana de Armas doesn't really have much to do. It's a film that independently of its obvious production values, feels heavy handed, dated and made in auto-pilot (almost like everyone knew this was a flashy, glossy paycheck, and therefore their own investment was quite basic). The supporting cast also fails to register in a meaningful way, as does the production team itself (the cinematography from Stephen F. Windon is generic as is the score from Henry Jackman). Forgettable and unnecessary.