The Gray Man Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Ryan Gosling returns from his four-year hiatus to star in this action-packed spy-thriller, next to Chris Evans. But is this Netflix production intriguing enough to dignify a franchise?
Genre: Action / Thriller
Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Dhanush, Julia Butters, Billy Bob Thornton & Callan Mulvey.
Run Time: 128 min.
US Release: 15 July 2022 (limited) / 22 July 2022 (Netflix)
UK Release: 15 July 2022 (limited) / 22 July 2022 (Netflix)
German Release: 14 July 2022 (limited) / 22 July 2022 (Netflix)
This might have been the most disappointing spy film I have seen in a long time! Yes, it is entertaining, primarily due to its cast, though the story and uneven camera work do little to amuse the audience. It is an amalgamation of Michael Bay explosions, paired with a Bourne story and Mission: Impossible villains. To be fair, it is my fault for having gotten so excited about this action thriller, as I should know by now that Netflix is only out to create content but not quality entertainment. So let’s talk about The Gray Man! When Sierra Six, the CIA’s most skilled operative, accidentally uncovers the agency's darkest secrets, CIA official Carmichael orders a psychopathic former employee to take him out, triggering a global manhunt by international assassins.
Based on the book of the same name by Mark Greaney, this spy-thriller was adapted into a screenplay, among others, by Joe Russo. Additional rewrites were then made by Netflix authors, who intended to turn this into a franchise to compete with the Bond franchise, and it shows! The plot has no structure of its own, heavily borrowing from other spy flicks that did it better, while the writing is lazy, only building a setup for the next movie yet not telling a narrative of its own.
The absolute choppy storytelling plus much too long runtime add to the disappointment, as the convoluted plot becomes hard to follow, dragging along its midpoint. The flashbacks hinder a fluent progression of the story, breaking the build-up of suspense. Then there is a sudden change of atmosphere, switching from tension-filled action to a comedic tone. This is an incoherent mess!
It is frustrating because The Gray Man contains fragments of intriguing ideas, proving that this could have been an appealing spy-thriller in more competent hands. Especially the introductory scene with Billy Bob Thornton and Ryan Gosling, leading to spectacular-looking opening credits, promise an efficient spy mystery that the audience never obtains.
The dialogue is ordinary; however, the sudden inclusion of banter halfway through the movie between Six and Dani broke with the film's style. The over-the-top puns and one-liners from Chris Evans add to the uneven tone, making it feel like two widely different scripts were forcefully fused into one.
The talents of this cast of A-listers are absolutely wasted! Ryan Gosling as lead character Court Gentry, aka Sierra Six, is the only shining beacon of light in this film! He tries, unsuccessful, to give his character intrigue - similar to what he did in Drive. The brushed-over backstory sadly hinders any emotional attachment to the character, while Six’s chemistry with his former handler’s adoptive daughter feels forced and unnatural. Sierra Six is best when he is emotionally distant, even cold, yet with a clear set of moral codes.
Chris Evans' take of the psychopathic Lloyd Hansen is fun to watch but ends up being too cartoonish, with no real explanation as to what turned the persona into the psychotic killer that he is. Evans enjoyed taking over the mantle of a villainous role, including great back-and-forth between him and Gosling. The character, however, is written very shallowly!
Ana de Armas plays agent Dani Miranda, another fantastic actress, shoved into a side-kick role with no depth or backstory. Dani is still an inexperienced agent who accidentally got tangled up in this mess. De Armas gives a good performance for what she was given, yet her chemistry with Gosling was missing.
Billy Bob Thornton as Six’s former handler Fitzroy also gets crammed into the side-role of a victim and is easily interchangeable with anyone else, making this an absolute waste of casting.
Finally, there is Regé-Jean Page as the main villain behind the curtains, pulling the strings. Page gave a very one-dimensional rendition of his persona a simple, shallow suck-up of a dirty CIA handler used as a set-up to a sequel.
Cinematographically, The Gray Man is another failure at capturing action, something that came as a surprise, as The Russo’s proved that they could do action with their Marvel flicks! While the sharp picture contains great colour pallets, from neon lights to pastel beige, the fight segments are entirely cut to a pulp. There are no scenes that let fights or thrilling scenarios play out, instead interlacing those moments with quick cuts from different angles every 5 seconds. A shame because both, Ryan and Evans, are known to be able to handle complete action segments in front of the camera.
The special effects are decent enough, although nothing out of the ordinary, especially for a blockbuster that cost around 200 million dollars. While explosions, fires and demolitions are sufficiently amusing to look at, none leave a memorable impression. In fact, a few of the special effects do look damn awful for the spy epic this intends to be!
Verdict: This Russo Brothers-directed spy movie is entertaining enough for Netflix but ultimately disappoints comparing it to brethren of its genre. The screenplay is lazily written, focused more on building a franchise than a story of its own. The conflicting tones, extended run-time and convoluted narrative, confirm the writers' incompetency. Chris Evans is fun to watch as the villain, though he has no depth, while Gosling tries to add some quality to his character. The post-editing on the action scenes is most frustrating, having cut up every fight into an incomprehensible blur on screen. This is slightly above sheer mediocrity but does not warrant the two-hundred million dollars that Netflix stuffed into production. An absolute waste of time compared to what it could have been, so The Gray Man doesn’t obtain more than a 6.0 out of 10. There are better spy flicks out there!
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