Between this, “21 Bridges,” “Extraction,” and “Cherry,” the Russo brothers are trying to complete their own Infinity Gauntlet of solo projects starring MCU vets.
“The Gray Man” stars Ryan Gosling as a covert hitman who must locate a missing drive and save a young girl from a crazed government agent (Chris Evans). Ana de Armas, Regé-Jean Page, Alfre Woodard, and Billy Bob Thornton also star, while the Russo brothers direct.
Joe and Anthony Russo are a perplexing puzzle that I can’t quite figure out. On one hand, they directed two of the best superhero films in recent memory (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Avengers: Infinity War”), as well as two fun ones (“Civil War” and “Endgame”). However they also directed “Cherry,” a pretentious and pretty bad film starring Tom Holland (and, for what it’s worth, produced this year’s sleeper hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once”). “The Gray Man” is another slip-up for the duo, because despite a $200 million budget from Netflix and an all-star cast, the end results are pretty bland.
Ryan Gosling is one of those actors who pretty much plays himself in every movie, but usually no one complains. He brings his soft voice and deadpan one-liners here, and sells the action scenes. Chris Evans, on the other hand, is acting in a completely different film from his counterparts. Sporting a “trash stache,” Evans chews scenery left and right and is having a ball playing a straight-up cartoon character, and who am I to criticize that?
After being essentially a glorified cameo in “No Time to Die,” Ana de Armas actually gets to do some action scenes and hold her own (once again) with the boys, and her continued rise to stardom should only continue this fall with her turn as Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde.”
The action in the film is, fine. It doesn’t have many quick-cuts, and does a good job of having widely-framed shots of the hand-to-hand combat sequences so we can actually tell what is happening. A fair amount of people get shot, but since it’s PG-13 there’s not much blood to really make it fun in that “John Wick” sorta way. That being said, there are a *lot* of drone shots in this, and my only assumption is that similarly to Michael Bay and “Ambulance” earlier this year, the Russos discovered drones a week prior to filming and felt the need to play around with them as much as possible during production.
The sound design is really well done, including a fantastically designed plane crash sequence; I was able to see this on the big screen and like most movies it only enhanced the experience.
At $200 million, this is among Netflix’s most expensive projects to-date, alongside “Red Notice” and “The Irishman.” I can’t help but feel they could’ve slashed the cost in half by having the film take place in two or three locations, because they straight-up visit every continent in the world short of Antarctica over the course of these 129 minutes. Every other scene has the name of the city we’re now in plastered in huge white comic sans font (a Russo trademark), and it really hinders the film from gaining any true momentum.
“The Gray Man” at least almost feels like a real movie you would see in a theater and not just a product off the Netflix conveyor belt, but given all it has going for it the end result should’ve either been a lot more interesting or a lot more fun; I guess my overall enjoyment of the film is left somewhere in the gray.
Critics Rating: 5/10