When the CIA’s most skilled operative-whose true identity is known to none-accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins.
Netflix’s latest big budget blockbuster, ‘The Gray Man‘, is a globe hopping espionage thriller starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, with ambitions to replicate the high watermarks of the genre in James Bond and Jason Bourne’s cinematic outings. It stars Gosling as a CIA secret agent who finds himself on the run from his handlers having taken receipt of an encrypted file (hello MacGuffin!) from a man he was sent to kill. In return, the handlers hire the unhinged mercenary Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans, essentially playing his character from ‘Knives Out’) to track him down and retrieve the drive, setting off a cat and mouse chase that takes in seemingly every country on the globe.
‘The Gray Man’ is a perfect example of the type of film that assembles all the relevant ingredients to make a successful and entertaining spy movie, yet seems to have no idea how to put the pieces together to create a good movie. You have the globe trotting adventures and the moderately colourful supporting characters, yet it all feels so contrived to the extent that it seems like they were competing to feature the most countries and nationalities in one film, as if their very presence would mean the movie would have a greater appeal in multiple countries. By the time we came to Prague I just laughed and started mentally considering which other countries would be shoehorned on for limited benefit to the story.
It also suffers from a fairly bland Gosling performance as the lead with a mysterious backstory (flashbacks to him looking after a young girl don’t really help), but moreso it suffers because the Russo brothers focus is entirely on getting from A to B without considering how to make the journey to get there compelling. There are exceptions, namely a brilliant action sequence in Prague which is clearly where most of the extensive budget went, and as far as throwaway action movies go I’ve seen worse, but ‘The Gray Man’ is the latest symptom of Netflix throwing money at bankable directors and stars without seemingly applying any quality control. This would have worked better as a sharp and pulpy 90 minute thriller as opposed to the padded out, by the numbers effort that we are left with. Forgettable but serviceable.
Directed By: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Dhanush and Alfre Woodard