UK Release Date: 20th March 2015
Runtime: 115 minutes
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Don MacPherson, Pete Travis, Sean Penn
Starring: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone, Idris Elba
Synopsis: The repercussions of a past assassination begin to catch up with a former soldier in the Congo.
Since Liam Neeson decided to reinvent himself as an action man in Pierre Morel’s Taken, it seems that just about every ageing Hollywood character actor is at it. The latest “geri-action hero” is Oscar-winner Sean Penn, who has teamed with Morel for literary thriller adaptation The Gunman, which really doesn’t have much going for it at all.
Jim Terrier (Penn) is a former soldier working in the Congo with his doctor girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca). He is ordered by superior Felix (Javier Bardem) to assassinate a Congolese minister, which will necessitate him leaving the country and his girlfriend. Years later, Jim has to escape an attempt on his own life and tracks down figures from his past, including Felix, a shady banker (Mark Rylance) and an old friend (Ray Winstone).
The Gunman doesn’t seem to realise what it was that made Taken such a success – its beautiful simplicity. Morel’s latest film is mired in complex African politics and multiple double, triple and quadruple-crosses. It’s difficult to invest in the film when it is so engrossed in its twisty-turny plotting.
| "We thought we were helping, but it didn’t work out that way."
It doesn’t help that Sean Penn’s performance in The Gunman is thoroughly unremarkable, lacking any of the easy charisma that makes Liam Neeson so watchable. Penn, instead, is content to grunt his way through the pages and pages of expository dialogue in between taking his shirt off as much as possible.
The supporting cast is an array of top-tier actors giving bizarre performances in badly written roles. Wolf Hall’s Mark Rylance makes little of his obviously signposted role, Javier Bardem seems unsure where to pitch his Machiavellian businessman and Ray Winstone simply plays as if he is back in the remake of The Sweeney. In the midst of it all, it feels as if Jasmine Trinca barely gets chance to speak. This is a film interested only in its men.
The Gunman simply fails to engage the audience with its story. As the conspiracy begins to unfold, the film becomes a vague mess that fails to convey the story well. There are times when it is near impossible to follow the action, which would be fine were it not for the fact that the action sequences themselves have little in the way of the exhilarating flying fists that make Jason Statham’s oeuvre so exciting.
| "It’s the ones who aren’t after you who do you in the end."
The biggest issue with The Gunman is that it feels soulless. There’s no sense of fun, or tension, or emotion in the story. Action movies can be great fun, but there needs to be a reason to get invested in the violence. For the Taken films, it’s Liam Neeson’s persona. In The Gunman, it’s difficult to find a reason to care.
Pop or Poop?
Sean Penn joins the geri-action bandwagon in unimpressive fashion with The Gunman, which amounts to a rather dull conspiracy action thriller.
The supporting cast flounder, the plot fails to convince and there’s no punch to the action sequences. This one definitely deserves a spot in the bargain bin.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.