Directed by Pierre Morel, The Gunman is an adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel The Prone Gunman about a former assassin, Jim Terrier (Sean Penn), whose past sins finally catch up with him. In 2006 Terrier worked as a soldier, unbeknownst to his girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca), and was instrumental in the killing of a minister during the tumultuous civil war that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo. Flash-forward to 2014 and Terrier is still in the region, however he has put his violent past behind him. He is now focused on bringing positive change to the community by building much needed water pumps.
Despite his new attitude, as is the nature with these types of films, it doesn’t take long before Terrier finds himself on the wrong end of an assassination attempt. With the help of his old friend Stanley (played with such gusto by Ray Winstone), Terrier goes to Spain to uncover answers only to find even more trouble. It’s a scenario that, despite some exciting moments of action, is quite typical for the genre.
While The Gunman gives action fans exactly what they want, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The script, co-written by Don MacPherson and Pete Travis, fails to live up to the grand visual scale that Morel and cinematographer Flavio Martinez , the latter bringing some truly gorgeous lighting schemes to the night sequences, strive to create. Though Morel does manage to generate some suspenseful sequences in this globetrotting film, The Gunman is simply too frenzied at points for its own good. The chaotic approach to the action and editing hinders the film and leads to several nonsensical moments. One notable example is the sex scene between Terrier and Annie which mixes flashbacks of their time in Africa with the couple’s reunion. The scene is neither sensual nor original; instead it evokes bad memories of a notorious sex scene in Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film Munich.
As Terrier, Sean Penn continues the trend of aging actors playing a badass onscreen, a move that gave Liam Neeson’s career resurgence several years ago. Though Penn does convey moments of convincing vigor, the film never truly displays his versatility as an actor. One would think that the arc involving Terrier’s health problems would be a jumping off point for Penn’s performance, but even that falls flat.
The same can be said for the rest of the film’s ensemble – with the exception of Ray Winstone who manages to rise above the material – as they aimlessly suffer through the script’s overall lack of depth. Jasmine Trinca gives a decent performance, but is relegated to the damsel in distress who is forced to tag along with the hero with little to do. Mark Rylance’s Cox, an assassin who reinvents himself as a corporate businessman, is woefully underdeveloped. Even talented actors such as Javier Bardem, playing Terrier’s old friend Felix, and Idris Elba, as a mysterious government agent, cannot salvage the film with their cameos. Considering the wit and charm each of them possesses, the audience cannot help but wish there was more Bardem and Elba in the film.
While The Gunman will surely satisfy those who enjoy watching gunplay, it is an unfortunately mediocre film overall. Aside from a few enjoyable moments, the funny yet gruesome scene outside of an aquarium comes to mind, the film is just too formulaic. Though Sean Penn does deserve some credit for at least trying to do something different, the material doesn’t rise up to what is expected in a genre like this. In the end, The Gunman is a very underwhelming film.
© thevoid99 2015