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Movie Reviews

The Gray Man ★★★



Director: The Russo Brothers

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas 

Release: July 22, 2022 

With their 2021 release, Cherry receiving a less than savoury reception, it could be said that the Russo brothers have something to prove. Working against an internet reputation that routinely questions their directorial capabilities, landing a $200 million Netflix action flick may have seemed like the ultimate ‘get out of jail free’ card. A film that performs best for cinema yet only has a five-day release window, The Gray Man effortlessly pulls out all the stops to make its presence known. It doesn’t always land and can often feel generic, yet the star-fuelled enjoyment of hitmen blowing stuff up can’t be overlooked.

After a government-planned hit draws more attention than it should, Agent Six (Ryan Gosling) comes into possession of information that exposes all. Heading on the run across the world, the compromised Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) will stop at nothing to bring him down, hiring rogue Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to finish the job. With the help of Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas), the two are in a race against time to rescue captured bait Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) from Hansen’s grip.

As proven in the above description, The Gray Man is a film that naturally draws clichéd buzzwords to its side. Phrases like “race against time” and “on the run” are apt descriptors for the action yet also present the running issue with the film itself. It’s understandable that a giant like Netflix will work to a trusted formula – entertaining the viewing palette of millions internationally is no mean feat. But it also means audiences sit down for 122 minutes they’ve seen countless times. A maverick yet loveable hero, a truly unhinged antagonist, and a female sidekick that’s only wheeled out when she’s helpful are the bedrock of many famed action films. In an industry that desperately wants to be seen as progressing with the times, the decision to stick with what’s known is certainly the overly safe choice. 

In many ways, it’s the eclectic direction that stops The Gray Man from heading into stereotypical obscurity. Opening with a Bangkok party extravaganza that subtly nods to Gosling’s previous work in Only God Forgives, sweeping shots through a flurry of activity snap the audience’s attention back into life. The Russo brothers undoubtedly are an acquired taste, yet the unexpected bombastic nature of their work lends well to tired action tropes. The same can almost be said for the characters, with chemistry between Gosling, Evans, and Thornton ample and flourishing. It’s particularly nice to note that Armas isn’t being relied on for her looks, as her jaunty suits stay buttoned-up and poised to drive the drama ahead. There’s an element of unbelievability to each character, which is particularly present in Page’s baby-faced villain. It’s hard to imagine he’s not waltzed in from a shift at Halifax, taking a swing at everything the bad guys would be known for saying. 

It’s true that viewers aren’t looking at groundbreaking cinema when watching The Gray Man. It performs comfortably in its box, sure to win over audiences with its star power, killer action sequences, and full-on storyline. A more critical eye won’t have to look hard to find fault in the mechanics, but perhaps there’s nothing a good car chase can’t fix. 

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