The new Netflix movie starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans has plenty of stylish action scenes but lacks material?
“The Gray Man,” Netflix’s new action movie starring Ryan Gosling, constitutes everything the streaming platform wants as a company. Faced with stagnant subscriber growth and declining profits, the company has reportedly pledged to release fewer projects, opting instead to focus on big-budget titles with A-list talent.
The movie is about an unofficial government assassin whose real name is Court Gentry, which sounds fake enough to make the codename idea seem redundant. But he also has one: Sierra Six, a reference to the CIA program he was recruited at the dawn of the film and a not-so-subtle nod to a confident globe-trotting spy. “007’s been taken,” Six even quips at one point, and openly pointing out that you’re a sleazy version of the famous character would feel like arrogance in most other movies; well.
The Gray Man is a Netflix original and a whirlwind of brand new properties similar to things you’ve seen before and has become the streaming giant’s main jam. And in other ways, it sums up what Netflix is now pinning its film future on.
Adapted from the first in a series of books by Mark Greaney, it is set to launch the franchise and is directed by Marvel veterans, the Russo brothers. It’s also the most expensive movie Netflix has ever made. However, a big chunk of the reported $200 million budget went toward hefty paydays for Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de. Armas.
What was left was used to create something perfectly usable that you can go in the background while noodling on your phone,
and I mean that as a compliment.
Netflix’s previous attempt at a star-driven action extravaganza, Red Notice, looked like it was scripted by artificial intelligence and played in front of green screens without requiring its stars to be in the same room. At the very least, The Gray Man feels like a middle-of-the-road movie that wasn’t worth catching in theatres but would comfortably fill an entire afternoon if you happened upon it on cable. Despite the film’s precise desires, not much of a Bond-like Six is seen in that tradition. He falls between Jason Bourne and the title character in La Femme Nikita, a willing recruit to a secret program with no way to opt out. When he is first approached by a CIA bigwig named Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), he is serving a life sentence in prison. Fitzroy tells him he will be trained “to kill bad guys,” and he says yes. Cut to the title card 18 years later, and he’s in Bangkok, about to meet with the agent Dani Miranda (de Armas) at the behest of a Langley upstart named Carmichael (Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page), who has nefarious intentions. Six’s choices are less clear.
Like all assassins, he has a heart of gold, but that only becomes apparent when his survival is threatened due to interagency politicking. He has a Bourne-like capacity for brutality and sustaining severe injuries. The film tends to throw him into self-combat situations, which undoubtedly look better than gunfights. But he also has a very un-Bourne-like penchant for quips.
The plot of the movie includes a MacGuffin – a ride with proof hidden in a locket – that takes the series from Turkey to Austria to the Czech Republic to Croatia with a stop in flashbacks to Hong Kong. De Armas is cast again as a gal Friday, with Alfre Woodard playing a small role as the ex-CIA chief. Tamil celebrity Dhanush is a mysterious mercenary in the overtly pandering looks that used to be reserved for Chinese stars to attract an international audience. India has a massive market that the company is grappling with capturing. The big set pieces are depressingly disjointed for all the film’s resources. The Russians might have been responsible for one of the better fight scenes in the MCU, in a lift in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Still, the stage long action sequences on a falling plane and a moving streetcar aided by a sloppy computer. -generated work and so little sense of where the characters are about the space they are in that there is no tension.
Not that it’s relevant, but The Gray Man ends as a TV pilot would, with
surprisingly less resolution. In the inevitable sequel, most characters return to their starting positions to do it all over again. That’s good enough for a government job, but you can understand why they might want to keep the numbers