If there’s ever a movie that screams “I’m a generic action thriller!” this would be it. The Gray Man is Netflix’s most recent blockbuster hit which stars Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana De Armas, and Regé-Jean Page just to name a few. With such a star-studded cast and the Russo Brothers helming the film, you’d expect the movie to be fresh and compelling, but it’s really quite the opposite. The film is a messy muddle of explosions and gunshots and is all action with no real plot.
There’s a lot about this movie that I wasn’t satisfied with, but my biggest complaint would probably be that each character played right into a stereotype. There wasn’t anything innovative or fascinating about these characters because they’re exactly who you’d imagine them to be – we have the OP protagonist who is unkillable, the sadistic killer whose sole purpose is to exterminate the protagonist, and the emotionless big bad boss. I love a good action thriller as much as the next guy, but it’s important for me to see that the film has substance and that it’s not just another copy of something I’ve seen before.
And that’s the problem, the plot just wasn’t good. There wasn’t a real story to be told here – the movie is simply action upon action upon action. The writing wasn’t particularly notable either, it just felt like they slapped a bunch of one-liners together and called it a day. As a result, there is very little character development and plot progression. I wasn’t fond of any of the characters, which is a big problem in a movie like this because with life and death on the line, it’s sad to say I didn’t really care about what happened to them.
But since there’s a lot of action, let’s talk about the action! Was it any good? Well, since the story lacked creativity, at least we get to see a variety of action sequences. For what it’s worth, the action sequences were nicely executed; they were intense, bold, and well choreographed. The hand-to-hand combat looked great, and it even reminded me of that iconic knife fight between Steve Rogers and the Winter Soldier. I do want to commend the actors for their commitment in learning the fight choreography though because man, does it look tough.
Quick shout out to the Russo Brothers though for getting in some really cool shots. The camerawork was fantastic in some of the action sequences and I always really enjoyed any of the shots that were long and drawn out without any cuts in between. I guess it’s fair to say the Russo Brothers know how to do action. Now if only they could improve on the character development…
Honestly, I think what saved the movie is having all the famous actors involved. While I can’t say that this film is their most amazing performance ever (or anything close to that), they did decent enough. Gosling has enough charisma and confidence to carry the role of the protagonist while Evans did well in portraying a complete psychopath. I did have a problem with Page’s performance as Denny Carmicheal though. It almost felt like he was playing a parody of the character. To me, it looked like he was trying a little too hard to be intimidating that it came off cheesy and unnatural instead. Also, what’s with characters never running out of breath? They can jump off a plane and fight twenty guys without ever breaking a sweat, what’s up with that?
Another issue I have with this movie? The pacing. It’s a 2 hour long movie which is pretty standard, but for some reason it felt incredibly long. Like really long. I found myself pausing the movie halfway through for a bit of a break and still thinking to myself, wait, we’re only halfway done? And this is one of the consequences of having so much action – it becomes overused which results in the audience feeling exhausted in keeping up.
After watching 2 hours of nonstop action, I can honestly say that I’m feeling a little tired. This is what I would call mindless cinema. I would’ve loved if there was a lot less gun shooting and a lot more character development. For fans of action movies, I’m sure this will do the trick as you’ll get to enjoy an array of action sequences (which I will say are pretty nicely done!). I mean, you also get to enjoy Gosling and Evans in the same movie so maybe that’s a bonus in of itself. But maybe these kinds of intense movies just aren’t for me because I can’t genuinely say I enjoyed myself. It just felt like every other unimaginative, unoriginal action thriller I’ve seen mashed together into one extreme film. With that thought in mind, The Gray Man is going to get a 4.5/10 from me. While it’ll suffice as background noise, I don’t think I’ll be able to invest another 2 hours straight for this film.
I confess I didn’t even make it to the end and turned it off half-way through. It had gotten a lukewarm reception from some folks I already had heard from before trying to watch it, so I was leery to begin with. Many action fans probably made it to the end and actually liked it, but I didn’t like or care about the characters to begin with, and nothing they did during the time I watched it made me want to stick it out. I think for the money spent, the Russos, and the leads, we all expected a better product than this result.
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I was definitely exhausted by the end so you didn’t miss out on much! I believe I read there’s going to be a sequel in development soon, but after watching the first, I can’t say it’ll be promising…might have to be a pass on the sequel from me.
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