a critiQal film review The Gunman (2015)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Eight years after fleeing the Congo following his assassination of that country's minister of mining, former assassin Jim Terrier (Penn) is back, suffering from PTSD and digging wells to atone for his violent past. After an attempt is made on his life, Terrier flies to London to find out who wants him dead - and why. Terrier's search leads him to a reunion with Annie (Trinca), a woman he once loved, who is now married to an oily businessman (Bardem) with dealings in Africa.

Reviewed
512 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 33s)
  • ...the viewer gets a sense that the film just isn't good enough for lead actor Sean Penn, and hopes it will improve. It doesn't.

There is occasionally a movie or two that slips below the radar. The Gunman, starring Sean Penn, was one of those films. While I hadn’t heard a peep during it’s run in theaters, I noticed it when it showed up on NetFlix®, and had been meaning to give it a go.

Directed by Pierre Morel, the same guy behind Taken (2009), The Gunman is an action thriller starring another aging actor, Sean Penn. Would Pierre Morel be able to lead Sean down the road to action thriller glory like he did with Liam Neeson, or should Sean Penn be looking for more dramatic roles?

Over the years, Sean Penn has managed to build up quite an impressive acting reputation for himself. While his antics off-screen didn’t exactly make him a media darling, his on-screen performances have seemed to have improved dramatically as he ages. With The Gunman, he brings that same intensity to the role that garnered him so much praise for films like Dead Man Walking. Unfortunately, by doing so, he seems to overshadow the directing abilities of Morel. Most of the time, the viewer gets a sense that the film just isn’t good enough for Penn, and hopes it will improve – not exactly the feeling the director is trying to evoke in viewers.

Since the film is so centered around Penn, the other recognizable actors – including Idris Elba, Javier Bardem and Ray Winstone – are delegated to bit players. While these notable actors are good at what they do, they don’t get a whole lot of screen time to showcase it in The Gunman. While relative unknown Jasmine Trinca does get more screen time, her presence isn’t quite on par with Penn’s, and she is often delegated to so much background noise.

Part of this is the director’s fault. Even during the intimate moments shared between Penn and Trinca, the camera can’t seem to pull itself away from Penn for more than the briefest of moments. It’s a bit weird, as action thrillers usually tend to focus more of the viewer’s attention during these sequences on the “damsel in distress” of the pic (who is usually there only for a few titillating moments and to provide motivation for the hero). It’s definitely an oddity when the action hero shows more skin than the damsel.

Aside from that, The Gunman just seems too generic for the big names involved. Sure, the setup is a bit different – but that’s just to pull in a humanitarian angle for the pic. Apparently, that’s just to make viewers feel better about watching the film, as the rest of the sequences of the film could have been copied directly from any other paint-by-number action thriller these days.

It’s too bad, really. With Sean Penn leading a cast that includes several recognizable names, viewers expect The Gunman to set itself out from the pack. It doesn’t. This by-the-numbers thriller is a bit too run-of-the-mill for these top names, and will quickly find itself lost amongst the many other contenders in the action thriller genre.

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