Published Jun 30, 2015Though the Blu-ray casing for the latest exercise in exploitative renegade enforcement, The Gunman, suggests that the film is "spectacular," it's actually nothing of the sort. At best, it could be described as "passable" or "occasionally fun" or "not that bad." It's a rather messy film that puts its emphasis on mystery over action, despite having a mystery that's as transparent as it is uninteresting. It is, however, a blasé reiteration of the countercultural status quo — denoting the evils of corporate power with a gentle backdrop of atonement — which explains why Sean Penn is involved.
The premise, which could easily be that of broad satire, is presented with full earnestness. Terrier (Penn), a former black ops sniper, goes into hiding after assassinating the minister of mines in the Congo. When he resurfaces, doing volunteer aid work (as all former black ops mercenaries do), an attempt is made on his life, leading to a chase throughout three continents involving legions of interchangeable killers and an ex-girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca) that's now bonking his old partner in crime, Felix (Javier Bardem). And, as Terrier defends his life while trying to solve the mystery of who is behind the hit, he's also suffering from debilitating brain trauma that acts up whenever he engages in too much aggressive activity (like the opposite of Crank, but devoid of any humour).
Now, to be fair, there are a couple of reasonably well-constructed action sequences. Pierre Morel, who directed the original Taken, has an aptitude for assembling compelling chaos; even in From Paris with Love, which was pretty awful but sort of hilarious in its political irresponsibility, he was able to craft a couple of solid action sequences that helped the wishy-washy, less-than-original plot zoom by. But the thing about The Gunman is that it really takes itself seriously. Worse is that it spends most of its time doling out endless exposition about who might be responsible for the hit on Terrier and why they would target him when it isn't trying to milk the "old flame" subdued romantic tropes of a lethargically constructed love triangle.
This superfluous emotional baggage touches on themes of redemption and our inability to escape the past, but says nothing significant about the notion. Instead, the focus appears to be on the evils of corporate America, and the exploitation of third world economies for personal gain. In some ways, making a generic action movie that passive-aggressively criticizes the very system that it's relying on for commercial success is quite clever, but since there's really nothing new added to the increasingly glib lexicon of anti-corporate cinema, it all comes off as rather humdrum and predictable. It also doesn't help that it fails to entertain on a visceral level, leaving the audience to deal with the vacuum that is the recycled, uninspired plot machinations.
No supplemental materials are included with the Blu-ray, which really isn't a surprise for such a middling, passionless project.