The Gray Man Review – Bad to the Bone

The Gray Man

Joe and Anthony Russo have done incredibly well in the past decade with their phenomenal work in the Marvel universe. So, to find their voice past Marvel Studios, the brothers have teamed up with their Captain America writers and Netflix to adapt the best-selling thriller, The Gray Man. It’s a recipe for success. The results, however, aren’t as good as you’d expect.

The Gray Man follows Six (Ryan Gosling), the CIA’s most skilled operative, whose true identity is unknown. When he accidentally uncovers some dark agency secrets during a job, Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), the head of the CIA, puts a bounty on his head. On top of that, he hires a psychopathic mercenary (Chris Evans) to find Six by any means necessary.

As you might expect, The Gray Man is a movie packed with so much vehicular destruction, chases, and explosive gunfights. So much of the visceral appeal of the action sequences in The Winter Soldier is on full display here. The hand-to-hand combat hits hard and has a fluidity to them. Also, the vehicular chases and gunfights are intricate and thoroughly entertaining. The action is so stylized that it should make Michael Bay proud. 

Of course, there’s no arguing against The Gray Man that it takes considerable skill to accomplish these elaborate action sequences. There’s a method to Russos’ madness, and it’s somewhere between their big action set-pieces and swooping camera drone shots. Aside from all the spectacular action sequences, most of The Gray Man feels hollow and offers little in terms of characterization. You won’t find the essentials of an excellent film either. Things like storytelling, compelling characters, or arcs that change the characters by intriguing and dramatic events are severely lacking. Not to mention, none of the characters are worth caring about either.

While The Gray Man doesn’t have brains, the movie has enough brawn to make it a perfectly entertaining way to spend two hours.

At the same time, the film’s storyline is all over the place, which isn’t surprising considering the number of characters in the movie. Although The Gray Man is based on a book, it’s clear that The Winter Soldier was the foundation for the film with the way it paints a portrait of political intrigue and betrayal. Unfortunately, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Joe Russo’s script don’t leave you at the edge of your seat as The Winter Soldier does.

Nevertheless, the cast has fun with the thin characterizations and is completely game with the Russos’ vision. Ryan Gosling is cool, calm, and collected (like his character in Drive) as Six. Sadly, his monotonous performance is outshined by Chris Evan’s over-the-top performance. Here, Evans reverts to his sarcastic prickly persona and hams it up as the film’s central antagonist, Lloyd Hansen. Also, Ana de Armas is divine and forceful, and Billy Bob Thornton anchors the movie as only he can. Unfortunately, the one-dimensionality of their characters does Regé-Jean Page and Jessica Henwick no favors. Page and Henwick are fantastic actors, but both deliver a stereotypical villainous performance.

Overall, The Gray Man isn’t the kind of film that’s intellectually stimulating or dramatically satisfying. While it doesn’t have brains, the movie has enough brawn to make it a perfectly entertaining way to spend two hours.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

The Gray Man hits select theaters on July 15th and Netflix on July 22nd.
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