With “The Gray Man” Anthony and Joe Russo have achieved something extraordinary.
The Avengers: Endgame directors took a cast of extremely appealing Hollywood A-listers — Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page — and turned them all into boring afterthoughts.
Running time: 122 minutes. Rated PG-13 (intense sequences of violence and strong language). On Netflix.
It’s a truly amazing achievement. You just can’t believe you’re staring at megastars – they’re so bereft of individuality and charisma.
My Barista could have been cast in the lead role of this action thriller, and the film would be absolutely no different.
Still, Netflix has spent a whopping $200 million ($50 million less than the budget for No Time To Die) on the visually gorgeous adaptation of Mark Greaney’s spy novels in hopes that it would serve as a model for a popular film series by James Bond begins. The Bourne Identity, Mission: Impossible, and John Wick.
Much luck! That’s an awfully big task if your film doesn’t have a strong main character.
James Bond stars as King Lear alongside Sierra Six – played by a cold and reserved Gosling – a convicted killer whose sentence is commuted in exchange for him becoming a trained underground hitman for the CIA. He carries out secret unsavory missions for the government.
When Six is lured into the gig by his handler, Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), he is told, “You will exist in the gray.”
Six answers: “Disposable?”
Skip forward 18 years. After a shady new handler (Page) directs him to kill another agent, Sierra Four, Six discovers his own life is also at risk from the CIA and goes on the run – with damaging information in tow.
He is doggedly pursued around the world by a mercenary-turned agent named Lloyd Hansen (Evans, who chooses unassuming madness) and accompanied for a while by another wax figure named Dani (Armas, who does her best, Mrs. Cellophane). .
Six must also rescue Fitzroy’s young niece, who was kidnapped by Hansen.
The actors, while uniformly boring, aren’t entirely to blame for the shortcomings of their characters and the all-too-familiar Guy Goes rogue plot.
That would be the authors Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Her story is typical, superficial, spy-loving Mad Libs. And they have everyone talking in annoying secret agent government jargon that is neither creatively stylized nor believable – like a judge yelling “order in court”! while furiously hitting with a hammer. Have a drink every time someone says “value.”
Also, the writers deny their characters any development, wealth or, really, any emotion. A high-speed rollercoaster of explosions with no one to process anything would be fine if Gray Man was a lot of fun, but it’s just a ho-hum travelogue with unremarkable fight scenes.
We’ll be whisked away to Bangkok, Vienna, Berlin and more. Bullets are fired endlessly; Punches are thrown. The viewer, meanwhile, longs for Keanu Reeves to roll in as John Wick and kill a guy with a library book. Please give us some panache.
Gray Man’s personality is fully embodied in his images, which – in certainly a deliberate departure from the title – are boldly colorful. An early sequence in Thailand is bathed in purple, red, blue and yellow and is a joy to record.
This style-substance disparity has become a recurring theme for the Russos’ post-Marvel career: showy magnificence coupled with a foul script.
The brothers are undeniably talented, but they have yet to prove they can make a good movie without Thanos and Tony Stark.