Based on the novel of the same name by Mark Greaney, The Gray Man is an action-thriller which arrives on Netflix today. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (aka the Russo Brothers), the film stars Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas, and follows the story of an elite CIA agent who operates from the shadows.
In the movie, Courtland Gentry is a criminal who has been in prison since 1995. One day he is approached by the CIA, who make him an offer: Become part of the CIA’s Sierra program, bump off some bad guys, and remain prison-free for the rest of his life.
Flash forward 18 years and Gentry, now known as Sierra Six, is a highly skilled black ops mercenary. He undertakes various missions, including those which could compromise national security, and his life revolves around killing.
But on one mission in Bangkok, he discovers his latest hit is fellow operative, Sierra Four. Although Six completes his mission, by eliminating his target, he retrieves data off Four’s body and soon finds himself in the firing line.
Due to the information in his possession, Six’s superiors want him terminated and employ psychotic former CIA agent, Lloyd Hansen, to complete the job. What follows is a country-hopping adventure, as Six fights for survival against Hansen and his team of assassins.
If you’re a fan of James Bond, Jason Bourne, or Jack Ryan, then The Gray Man should find you well. The movie takes some of the finest ingredients from all three of these action icons, chucks them into a blender, and serves up an easily digestible, fairly familiar, spy-infused smoothie.
You want thrills, plenty of explosions, and a lead character who favours action over words? Then you can certainly have it. You can also have plenty of spectacle, a few scenes of Ana de Armas high-kicking her way around the screen, and a damn fine villain in the shape of oily hitman, Lloyd Hansen, as played by Chris Evans.
All of this is overseen by the Russo Brothers, who have previously brought movies such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018) to the big screen. These guys certainly know their way around an action blockbuster, and this is pretty evident here.
The Gray Man looks good, is a very confident picture, and ticks all the required boxes for a movie of this genre. While it never quite reaches the same heights as say Bond or Bourne, it is pretty solid stuff, and I can’t imagine anyone will come away from this film feeling too disappointed.
Ryan Gosling takes on the role of Sierra Six, and this film gives him the opportunity to play a likeable ‘hero’, who looks cool and knows how to command the screen. Six is a role I expect Gosling will continue to develop, should any sequels follow, but here he lays the groundwork and it suits him well.
As an actor, Gosling always puts in fine performances, but to date he’s never become a franchise star. Based on what he serves up in this film, I believe all this could change and this could be the franchise that works for him.
Joining Gosling, and seemingly having an absolute ball in this movie, is Chris Evans as The Gray Man’s aforementioned bad guy, Hansen. Evans is excellent in this film, relishing the opportunity to play the token creep (a change of pace from his run as Captain America in the MCU), and he continues to showcase his talents.
Those who have seen some of Evans’ post MCU-work, in the likes of The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019) or Knives Out (2019), will be more than familiar with his ability to deliver as an actor. And here he is, once again, nailing his part and more-than fulfilling his brief.
The only lead actor who feels like they are given the short end of the stick in this film is Ana de Armas, who plays the role of Sierra Six’s colleague, Dani Miranda. Her role feels a little too similar to her scene-stealing turn in the recent Bond film, No Time to Die (2021), and this is a bit of a shame.
None of this is Armas’ fault by the way, the problem is she simply isn’t given enough to do. I would hope that if a sequel to The Gray Man does materialise (and I’d like to see one), this could be something to rectify for Chapter 2, as her talents feel a little wasted here.
Outside of the lead players, The Gray Man includes various familiar faces amongst the supporting cast, including the likes of Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard, and serves up just the right amount of thrills. The movie also boasts some beautiful visuals too.
One scene that stands out in particular is a brawl in Bangkok, which takes place during the first ten-minutes of the movie. This firework-infused sequence is a treat for the eyes, and is a teaser for some of the more visually interesting parts of the movie.
All-in-all, The Gray Man is enjoyable stuff. Not particularly original stuff, and it could benefit from a touch more depth, but as an introduction to Sierra Six and the world he inhabits, this isn’t bad at all.
It is far from the forgettable rubbish that Netflix often serves up, and with the Russo Brothers calling the shots there is certainly a lot to like in here. If you like action films, I do recommend it.
I guess my only real concern is that this film has a reported budget of $200 million, which is more than say, the most recent Mission: Impossible movie, so I do think it could do with a little more bang for its buck. But irrespective of this, the film is fine, and if you like old school action movies it is worth taking a look.
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