The Gunman English Movie Review
Director Pierre Morel will forever be known (and cursed) for starting the aging-actor-plays-spy-who-takes-revenge action films with the Liam Neeson-starrer Taken in 2008, a mediocre film that spawned not just it's own obnoxious franchise, but also a genre in itself where Neeson and other kinda-sorta actors took the same route time and time again to varied results.
Morel decides to dip his fingers in the proverbial cash bucket once again with this week's The Gunman, another pale imitation of Taken's I'll-find-you-and-I'll-kill-you concept, with Sean Penn appearing to have been digitally juxtaposed over Neeson this time.
To be fair to Morel, he does try to differentiate The Gunman from other such films, setting it against the backdrop of a civil war and giving the main character an uglier, darker past that involved him being an assassin for profit. But these turn out to be just superficial modifications to a concept whose problems lie much deeper.
The film is about aging sniper Jim Terrier, who finds himself being targeted by a hit squad for a political assassination he carried out 8 years ago in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At heart, The Gunman is still a lamely-scripted, haphazardly put together film whose only purpose is to serve as a vehicle for its star Sean Penn to show off his (immensely fit and muscular) physique and his action chops without putting too much strain on what the audiences call their brain.
During the entire running length, you feel like the kid who got sucked into going shopping with his mother and now has no way of getting out of there and going back home. You're forced to follow Terrier as he goes about implementing one harebrained tactic after another to flush out the conspiracy that he's a victim of, leaving an impressive number of dead bodies in his wake. Of course, there's a love story at the center of the film too, a love connection that is supposed to trump all trials and tribulations, but leaves you exasperated and rooting for the villain to kill her off instead.
But what completely sinks the film is the mundane nature of the action sequences and the borderline terrible performances by its cast. The action lacks any kind of spunk or novelty to it, instead having been copy-pasted from a multitude of other (better) films. There's no pulse pounding tension or even a mild level of curiosity to them, instead serving as fillers between stretches of uncompressing drama.
Sean Penn, serving as the star, producer and co-writer on the film, makes you miss a comparatively charming Neeson with the force of a thousand phone calls full of empty filmy threats. Penn is wooden, uncharismatic and fails to evoke any emotions other than exasperation in the audience. What's worse is, he wastes talented actors such as Javier Bardem, Idris Elba and Ray Winstone in small parts, which serve only to get some star power in front of the camera to get better box office results. Italian actress Jasmine Trinca, as his love interest, looks attractive and manages to distract you from Penn's dampener of a performance.
If only Sean Penn had put more effort into the scripting and acting department than sculpting his physique for the film's innumerable shirtless sequences, and if only director Pierre Morel had put more thought into crafting a slick and stylish action film with a political conscience, you wouldn't have left the theater with a pounding headache. The only reason anyone should ever watch The Gunman is if you hate Liam Neeson, but love his films.
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