THE GRAY MAN (2022)
Release Date: 07/22/22 [Netflix]
"When the CIA's most skilled operative-whose true identity is known to none-accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
The Russos are two of the biggest directors in Hollywood (that is when they’re paired with Marvel Studios at least). Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are all outstanding examples of action and characters accomplished with finesse. However outside of the studio giant, the Russos (whether serving as directors or producers) have failed to capture the heart or success creatively and financially, with prime examples being 21 Bridges, Cherry, and now The Gray Man.
Ryan Gosling is back on the big screen (or small, depending on the size of your television set) and it’s great to see him back as a leading man, especially sharing some of his best attributes with his more iconic roles from Drive and The Nice Guys. While he delivers the most ambitious performance out of the cast as a criminal recruited for top secret missions, his role still harnesses too much of a stereotypical action hero type, in the hopes of recreating some 80s/90s charm. Chris Evans’ time as the mustached hardened villain dives even deeper into this mentality: snarky, shouting, and grinning with malice. Evans is delicious in his mannerisms, but his predictable nature softens his performance. On the side of Gosling’s numerically named “Six” is Ana De Armas’s out-on-a-limb CIA agent, Billy Bob Thornton’s retired CIA head, and Julia Butters as Thornton’s niece, Claire; while on the villainous side of things there’s Regé-Jean Page as the new CIA head and Jessica Henwick as his second in command, Suzanne. The cast is layered with wild, controlled, and fine performances that assist the film in maintaining its entertainment value.
The action is frantic and relentlessly blurry, and while the fight choreography is fantastic, the hard work put into making these punches connect is wasted with substandard direction. It’s the pacing alongside the distracting editing that makes the entire experience all the more numbing. While the characters stand tall on their nostalgia-leaning stereotypes, chemistry between characters can only get you so far in an action-centric feature. Sitting at 122 minutes, the film surprisingly soars by, but that’s just because the film is always in motion, transitioning from location to location rapidly. The quick cut, Bourne style editing feels incredibly outdated, and the lack of confirmation in who is winning in a fight at any given moment, makes the viewing experience occasionally dull; the lackluster cover-up story also doesn’t do the film any favors.
While it may seem like the film is overcrowded with issues, there are some truly great moments in The Gray Man; they’re just overshadowed by the negatives. This new Russo joint is a fun ride that’s simply not an objectively “good” film, nor is it a particularly memorable one, but for some zany one-liners, fine performances from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and a few wild setpieces, The Gray Man may be worth the struggles it entails.