A message to Sean Penn: Liam Neeson you are not.
“The Gunman” stars Sean Penn as an ex-gun-for-hire who carried out a foreign assassination and finds his past catching up to him eight years later. Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and Javier Bardem also star as Pierre Morel (director of the first “Taken” film) directs.
On paper, this movie should have worked. Sure, the “retired gunman comes out for one last job” is a rehashed genre (heck, I just reviewed “Run All Night” the other day), but “Gunman” has an A-list cast, a director who showed he can direct a 50-year-old in an action film, and a fun-looking trailer. What’s the end result? A bunch of A-list cameos, shoddily executed action scenes, and a trailer that clearly knew it had to lie about the true content of its product.
For a movie entitled “The Gunman” there sure is a scarcity of guns in this film. Like seriously, I think there are three shootouts in this, and most of them consist of Sean Penn ducking in-and-out of cover, spraying his gun at what he hopes are enemies.
The film takes a few minutes to get up and running, giving us what I assume they intended to be character development (it’s just boring forced narrative). When the first shot is finally taken, you think you’re in for a solid action film. LOL, nope. The rest of the first act is an awkward and unbelievable soap opera drama between Penn, Bardem and Penn’s ex-girlfriend, who is now Bardem’s wife and Bardem is threatened by Penn, but he’s not, and…I don’t know what to tell you, the film is a mess.
Let’s get to the characters. No one in this film acts like a real person. Bardem is a clowny cartoon, who says things that made me cringe and scratch my head. In his limited screen time he is just a laughing, bumbling goofball, paranoid that Penn is simply there to steal his wife. Idris Elba shows up for five minutes simply to put his name on the poster, and Ray Winstone does his grumbling Ray Winstone thing. Any big name actor on the poster not named Sean Penn is in this movie for no more than 15 minutes, I kid you not.
I really don’t know if there’s anything good I can say about “The Gunman”. The more I write about it, the more I’m growing to dislike it, and I walked out disliking it a pretty fair amount as was. Even the set pieces of the Congo, London and Rome are so bland they don’t add any visual candy to the experience.
Sean Penn clearly wanted to make this movie (he also produced and co-wrote it), but this passion project was a struggle to sit through. The film is so agonizingly paced, clichédly written and boring in its narrative that when the gun battles we were promised in the trailer finally arrive, we just don’t care.
“The Gunman” has all the looks and feel of a mid-day soap opera, but all the razor-sharp excitement of a mid-day soap opera. The only reason this mundane “action” film won’t derail Sean Penn’s career is because the only people who will hopefully ever be forced to sit through it are in an interrogation room in Guantanamo Bay.
Critics Rating: 3/10