The Gray Man (2022) ** – Seen at the Cinema

I could have seen this for nothing on Netflix, but instead, hoping to do an action picture justice by seeing it on the  big screen, I shelled out my bucks for the privilege. Bourne Ripoff is as much as you need to know. Lazy writing with a bundle of the incongruities you can get away with within the MCU because as long as there’s the requisite action nobody bothers too much about logic.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is John Wick gone wild. It’s many things gone wild, including a heap of overacting, and a pair of the biggest villainous klutzes you will ever come across. It’s vaguely redeemed by an explosions/ shootout/ tram chase in Vienna but that’s only enough to shift it up from one-star to two. And it’s a shame because Ryan Gosling (First Man, 2018) in his first movie for four years is a believable tough guy in the Bourne tradition and Ana de Armas delivers on the action chops she displayed in No Time to Die (2021).

A poster straight out of the Joseph E. Levine playbook. He used to dream up these kind of posters which characters were assigned titles that bore no resemblance to the part they played on screen.

It should be an action romp, but instead it’s a mess. A C.I.A. black ops unit – inventively called the gray department – is hiring convicted killers to knock off anyone they want. Six (Ryan Gosling) got jailed for an insane amount of time, would you believe (nope!) for, as a teenager, killing his dad who was domestically abusing both his sons (trying to drown Six, for example). Six’s latest mission is to kill a guy who turns out to be an assassin in the same line of work but who is blackmailing C.I.A. boss Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page).

There’s nothing cool about Carmichael, he throws coffee at windows when he’s cross, and that sets an awfully bad example because his underling Suzanne (Jessica Henwick) is also prone to getting very cross. But that’s nothing compared to complete nutjob Lloyd (Chris Evans) who enjoys a bit of torture and gives psychopaths a bad name, but if I got this right attended Harvard with Carmichael so that’s okay then. Lloyd is hired to kill Six because he knows too much. And Lloyd calls in other assassins.

Now we’ve had that template in Bourne so what’s going to make it different? I know, let’s ramp it up. Instead of individual assassins, who might display some kind of finesse, let’s have teams of rampaging assassins. You can’t really wreck Vienna with just an assassin or two, you need a whole army.

Danush (Avik San) is an unusual assassin in that he operates on his own, not needing a huge team, but he is also cursed by – remember he’s a ruthless assassin – being suddenly conscience-stricken.

Oh, I forgot to mention Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), the guy who sprung Six from jail but is now retired. Luckily, he happens to have a young niece Claire (Julia Butters). And that comes in handy when Lloyd needs to bring him to heel – and can kidnap the girl. But wait, two years before, Six was assigned to protect Claire and saved her life twice.

Twice? Yep, once from assassination and once when he rushed her to hospital after something went wrong with her pacemaker. Yep, she has some terrible heart disease. But not enough apparently to prevent her being the world’s pacemaker poster girl. Guess what? She can race along the top of a castle and jump 100 feet off a castle wall into a moat.

After being blame-shamed by Carmichael, Six’s C.I.A. sidekick Dani (Ana de Armas) switches sides to help him and can be counted on to turn up to shoot darts at Lloyd and appear with a fast car in time to save Six from assassins on the aforesaid tram. But she’s one of the victims of the lazy writing. She has two clear chances to save the day by marksmanship and fails each time. The first excuse is just so dumb. Thrown a sharpshooting rifle by Six, she discovers this comes minus ammunition. “Never throw a loaded gun,” must be one of the stupidest lines ever written, a lame joke that clearly makes reference to No Time to Die. Armed with another sharpshooting device and with clear line of sight on Lloyd, for reasons that are never made clear she doesn’t shoot.

Did I mention that Six is the kind of tough guy who, armed with little more than a penknife, can saw through a water pipe because the directors want to do some kind of riff on Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) or that this this is the thriller version of If It’s Tuesday It Must Be Belgium (1969) with a different country about every ten minutes. And if people aren’t losing digits, it’s fingernails.

Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas come out of this well but Chris Evans (Avengers: Infinity War, 2018), with a Tom Selleck moustache, is just awful, a joke villain, the only surprise being he doesn’t twirl said moustache. It’s almost as if he’s doing his utmost to make people forget he was ever Captain Marvel, but this is to the utmost and beyond. Stick to Bridgerton would be my advice to Rege-Jean Page. Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa 2, 2016) plays one of his more restrained characters.

The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Infinity War) throw every trick in the book at the movie without starting from the obvious point – a decent script.

Author: Brian Hannan

I am a published author of books about film - over a dozen to my name, the latest being "When Women Ruled Hollywood." As the title of the blog suggests, this is a site devoted to movies of the 1960s but since I go to the movies twice a week - an old-fashioned double-bill of my own choosing - I might occasionally slip in a review of a contemporary picture.

21 thoughts on “The Gray Man (2022) ** – Seen at the Cinema”

  1. Brian, this sounds like it is so incredibly bad (especially considering cast and budget) it deserves a watch just so we appreciate other films – which have less star power and money going for them – that much more. Netflix has given us this type of summer eye-candy in the last couple of years when it comes to action films, but this one doesn’t sound tasty on any level at all. Great last paragraph to the review. That would have been an obvious place to start.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I don’t think I have enjoyed a single Netflix film. They all seem to be greenlit without a studio boss asking too many questions. As if Netflix are so delighted good directors are happy to work for them tat they’ll let them do anything. Those made-for-tv pictures of the 1960s and 1970s had low production values but often had good scripts. It would benefit Netflix to go down that route, More pictures but less mess.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ohhhh, I always scan for quality, historic value, macabre factor, eye candy, quick kicks, esoteric…seldom disappointed, so am I easily amused or a film vampire that can feast and obtain gourmet substance on a variety of treats?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nope. I look for entertainment also and have often hugely enjoyed movies that proper critics would scoff at. I have a wide range of tastes and will often return to see a film I especially like not. I saw Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan four times at the cinema as I did Le Mans (Ford vs Ferrari), Top Gun, Pirates of the Caribbean (first one), Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus, American Gangster, Any Given Sunday, On Equalizer (both). Entertain me is my credo.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. But does Netflix really claim to offer Gucci/5 star Bubbly fare? To me Netflix is a bit like a garage sale/ mystery box auction/boot sale venture…or that cliched box of chocolates where you never know what fillings hold. I’ve found gems and vile stuff and don’t hesitate to watch something dubbed. I’ve always been a fan of bazaars and flea markets, and can understand the challenge of reviewing stuff better tossed than discussed. Critics play a vital role-discussing the culturally droll with acquired taste versus that which remains enigma or bluff. If Netflix folds, who will fill the void?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Some of the best Netflix stuff is foreign television series – South American gangsters, the Spanish one about the heist, Monaco or was it Monte Carlo with Depardieu, and quite a lot of rare Middle East and Indian pictures or series. I’m not decrying a company without a strategy but if Netflix folds someone with a bit more sense will buy it and maybe produce a better program. It’s going to go bust anyway because it relies on its share price and that will tumble with subscriber loss.


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