***1/2 (out of 5)
March 20, 2015
Sean Penn as TERRIER
Jasmine Trinca as ANNIE
Javier Bardem as FELIX
Ray Winstone as STANLEY
Mark Rylance as COX
Idris Elba as DUPONT
Studio: Open Road
Directed by: Pierre Morel
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sometimes the marketing of a film works too hard to convince an audience that it’s a different movie. “The Gunman” has suffered that fate, mainly because it was directed by Pierre Morel, who is best known for reinventing Liam Neeson as an action star with the movie “Taken.”
Even though Morel doesn’t just deliver “Taken”-esque movies, it was too hard for the studio’s marketing department to try to promote “The Gunman” as Sean Penn’s foray into aging action films. This is very clear when you watch the trailer, which actually promises a very different movie than what you’ll see on screen. The trailer is, in fact, so misleading that not only are you told people have different relationships than they actually do, you’re also told that the bad guy is explicitly someone different.
Once I was able to get past the fact that the trailer was not necessarily advertising the movie on screen but rather what the marketing department wanted the movie on screen to be, I kind of got into it.
“The Gunman” isn’t about a man relentlessly searching for a kidnapped loved one. Instead, it’s about a former special forces soldier-turned-mercenary who is trying to live down the sins of his past. When assassins come for him, he goes on the run to uncover the mystery behind those who want him dead.
Where “Taken” hits a stride early on and, with little needed depth, sends the lead character on a mission of vengeance, “The Gunman” sends Sean Penn’s character on a mission of discovery. It’s a slow burn of a movie with some complicated twists and turns that threaten to become convoluted at times. A good hour of screen time passes before any extended action sequence, and things quickly slow down again to get back into slow-burn mode.
But I’m okay with this. In fact, “The Gunman” ends up being a deeper and more complex movie than ever was promised in the trailers. Sure, it gets a bit confusing at times, and there are some twists and turns that are a little too obvious or convenient at times. But on the whole, things seem to hold together for an international thriller.
What makes “The Gunman” rise above a forgettable action movie is its cast. Even Sean Penn, who comes across as a grump in most of the movies he’s in, works as the lead. He’s supported by a fantastic ancillary cast, which includes Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance.
Strangely enough, the biggest distraction in the film is Jasmine Trinca as Penn’s love interest. In traditional Hollywood misogynistic nature, her character is trivialized and diminished to nothing more of a prize for Penn’s character to save and possess. In fact, she’s so pointless in the movie as a whole that she could have been written out of the movie completely, and the plot would have been greatly improved.
In the end, I enjoyed “The Gunman” more than I expected I would, mainly because of the cast and because I was pleasantly surprised that the movie was not just a derivative “Taken” knock-off. Sometimes marching to the beat of your own drum causes havoc in the marketing department but ends up making a pretty decent final product.