Review: The Gunman
PLOT: A one time sniper hoping to escape his checkered past finds himself the target of a mysterious enemy. Can he find out just who has targeted him, and will he be able to save his hot ex-girlfriend while doing so?
REVIEW: If you are Sean Penn and you happen to be in great shape, why not try your hand at being an action star? Gather a top-notch cast, bring on the director of TAKEN and even hire a hot actress to play the love interest. Perhaps though, get a script that isn’t a hodgepodge of action movie cliches and more importantly, don’t make it so utterly boring. When all you do is focus on a painfully uninteresting love triangle for about forty minuets or so, and then finally get to the action, you know you are in for something shockingly dull. Even at Liam Neeson’s worst (TAKEN 3) it is still better than Sean Penn as THE GUNMAN.
In this overly convoluted tale, Sean Penn portrays Jim Terrier, an ex-special forces government contractor who is involved in some serious business. After he is assigned to pull the trigger on the Minister of Mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he must disappear from the aftermath. The successful assassination leaves the area in the midst of genocide and civil war. Eight years later, we find Terrier assisting with providing clean water for an African village - because you know, he is a nice guy. When a group of men show up looking to kill Terrier, he is able to escape to warn the men with whom he conspired with so many years before. Javier Bardem stars as Felix and Mark Rylance as Cox, the ex-partners, with the very pretty Jasmine Trinca as the love interest who Felix has taken in for his own.
Where to begin… As I sat taking in THE GUNMAN, and watching Sean Penn constantly shirtless, it seemed to take forever to really become an action film. As mentioned, the movie spends way too much time with Annie in the middle of Felix and Terrier, yet there is nothing dynamic about the relationship. It was impossible to care about any of these three characters. Even the usually great Bardem is wasted here as he spends one important scene spouting his own drunken, lovelorn heartbreak. So much time is wasted on this excruciatingly bland sub-plot that is really slows this story to a halt. When Annie is ultimately placed in peril, I didn’t really care whether she made it out at all. It’s not necessarily the fault of the actress, but she just didn’t have any fire or chemistry with either Penn or Bardem.
Pierre Morel knows how to create some very exciting on-screen action, so what happened here? Sure you have a couple of cool moments, with Terrier and Annie trying to escape while trapped in a bathroom, and even an unintentionally funny bullfight sequence. Yet the script features a ton of inept bad guys who have terrible aim. The fighting is oddly choreographed with too many quick cuts, and the machismo posing of Penn. This is especially ludicrous during one of the final battles, where Penn is once again shirtless underneath his bulletproof vest. Yeah, we get it, you are in great shape! And when we finally have the main villain spouting off his talking killer monologue, you think you are in for the last conflict. Nope, it keeps going on and on. This is just a mess of a movie.
Aside from a couple of cool shots, the only real bright spots here happen to be the casting of both Ray Winstone and Idris Elba. The two actors have very minor roles, but they both prove to be pretty entertaining while on-screen. Of course neither of them can save this incredibly boring story. The convoluted script is credited to Don MacPherson, Pete Travis and Sean Penn. Yep, Sean Penn is credited with the film but not on IMDB. Who knows what happened here, but there is so much going on, and every detail is so sloppily handled, you have to question who was involved with what. They even have Terrier dealing with some sort of brain disorder that occasionally pops up as a dumb plot device.
THE GUNMAN has a ton of problems, but the biggest one is that it’s so damn flat. After about a half hour I found myself wondering how much longer it would last. With false ends, characters devoid of personality and a major lack of humor or fun, there is very little to recommend. If you are a fan of the cast - and honestly who isn’t - you might want to check it out just to see the moments of unintentional hilarity. Sean Penn looks the part, and perhaps with a better script he may be able to take on the gruff, aging action hero, but this isn’t the movie to do it. This is a dull and convoluted mess that takes too long to get going, and unfortunately keeps going and going and going until the silly finale. What a waste of talent.
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