The newest blockbuster budgeted Netflix action entry is surprisingly competent compared to their usual output. The story is nothing new; CIA shadow assassin Sierra-Six (Ryan Gosling) goes on the run with evidence of corruption, sociopathic operative Lloyd (Chris Evans) is tasked with bringing him down, and Dani (Ana De Armas) is an agent caught in the middle just trying to save her career and not knowing who to trust. Rounding out the cast is Jessica Henwick as a morally compromised CIA handler, Billy Bob Thornton as Six’s mentor and father figure, and Alfre Woodard as an ex-CIA station head.
Directed by the Russo Brothers of Marvel fame the film looks great, although whatever it is that makes their MCU films so indelible has yet to make the transition outside of that franchise. The action jumps all over the globe on screen, although I’m guessing it was mostly filmed in Prague and on green-screened sound stages. There is not a lot here that you haven’t seen before, but the individual parts set The Gray Man apart from typical action ilk.
To start with, the cast is great and it is a lot of fun seeing them play against type. Gosling plays Six as quiet and enormously competent. When he talks, it’s usually a dry joke that lands more times than not. In Lloyd, Chris Evans gets to play a villain that knows he’s a villain and just doesn’t care. He has no lofty ethos, he’s just trying to protect himself, get paid, and doesn’t care who dies in the process. Which makes him great fun to watch. Most of the best lines belong to him and the few scenes Evans and Gosling share are among the movie highlights.
Ana de Armas puts her previous stunt training from No Time to Die to good use and proves time and again Dani can hold her own with Six and Lloyd. It is a refreshing change from the typical action blockbuster. No one has to save her, in fact, she is usually the one doing the rescuing and is as fully involved in the action hijinks as her male co-stars.
The Gray Man is based on a series of books by Mark Greaney and has 11 entries as of now. So it should not surprise you that the movie does not tie up its loose ends. It just kind of stops which was disappointing. The ending left a lot to be desired and if they had just wrapped it up instead of setting up a sequel that may or may not happen in the future it would have made for a complete movie. As it stands, The Gray Man is better than most of these mega-budget movies for Netflix, but the star power is doing the heavy lifting.
One last thing, as expected in a movie like this several things explode, seemingly hundreds of innocent bystanders are murdered, there is torture aplenty, and lots of hand-to-hand combat with knives, yet incredibly the whole thing got slapped with a PG-13. This proves how worthless the rating board is because this is one of the more violent action pictures to come out in a while. Be warned if you are sensitive to realistic bloody violence, especially violence against children, the PG-13 rating is not accurate at all. Normally I wouldn’t make a disclaimer like that but in this case, I think the movie is more brutal than the rating indicates and that warrants the warning.