Release Date: March 20, 2015
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Don MacPherson, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Pete Travis
Cast: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Idris Elba, Peter Franzen, Daniel Adegboyega, Ade Oyefeso, Alejandro Talavante, Rachel Lascar, Miquel Angel Ripeu, Mark Schardan, Alito Rodgers, Emilio Buale, Chris Starkie, Prasanna Puwanarajah
MPAA Rating: Action, Crime, Drama
Runtime: 115 minutes
Production Company: Anton Capital Entertainment, Nostromo Pictures, Open Road Films, Studio Canal
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Country: Spain, UK, France
With such a short track record, I can at least say director Pierre Morel can put together an entertaining film. He’s directed films like the first Taken, Transporters 1 and 2, and the reboot From Paris with Love, which is actually a surprise. I must say, these films have an element that The Gunman lacks. That missing piece is the main character you actually care about. Sure, it has a decent knife fight choreography, obstacles that have to be overcome mentally, and blazing guns, but at times that’s not enough. If the character battling these trials isn’t honorable, there’s a dilemma that arises. One can clock themselves out of a film intentionally just to enjoy what’s happening onscreen, but when you clock yourself back in, trying to absorb the film as a whole, you may ask yourself “Do I even care?”
I’m not a fan of long opening credits, but if it serves a purpose it can be forgiven. This time, however, I forgave, but didn’t forget. Initially I thought the film needed to slow down, and not saturate the audience with bland dialogue that serves no purpose. Scenes shift swiftly, prohibiting any recollection of prior scene locations. For a while it is difficult to follow the plot, or have a clue as to who the most important figures on the screen are, other than knowing someone is about to die. The set up is a jumbled mess of things: that appears to have a long road ahead, at an attempt of being dark and gritty. Yet it is always darkest before the dawn.
The film’s tone takes a bright turn after a short while. My interest started to pique after the first real action scene. It is a well put together scene, and I actually felt a sense of danger. The passion each character shows is high and loud. Questions began to cross my mind as the mystery developed. If the film had started this way I could speak volumes, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. After a passing of time, the main character, Jim (Penn) tries to turn over a new leaf. It is commendable, but not enough. His past sins eat at him daily, as he tries to wash them away. It just brought new meaning to the phrase, “what’s done in the dark will always come to light.” Even though Jim wants redemption, we never see it fully develop. His character has nothing to lose, so the stakes are low. If you ask yourself, “What would happen if the main character fails?” but can’t come up with a valid answer, it’s hard to care about the outcome. He has no family or friends looking out for him, but only his associates. He doesn’t try to protect anyone other than one soul, and in the process, he brings the danger upon them. I sat there saying, “This is cool to look at,” but it holds no weight. The main character doesn’t even deserve a second chance, according to me.. With many shortcomings on his side he has a task that is difficult to complete. That in itself is the main problem of the film. If the audience can’t sympathize or empathize with the plot or character, there’s not much that can be done.
At least Jim Terrier is smart. He takes his time, analyzes every situation, and pays attention to all the details. This was the better part of the film; he had me at the edge of my seat at times. Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, but his reasoning and decision-making are easily the highlight of the film. Mr. Penn has developed a great physique through exercise routines and this makes his action all more believable. The movie doesn’t compare with Taken (most likely due to the lack of emotional connection of the protagonist), but the suspense held up most of the time. I was very entertained to say the least.
If it isn’t clear already, The Gunman is not completely entertaining. The plot isn’t developed completely in terms of logic or the grand scheme of things. If a high-powered organization pulls out all the stops to eliminate loose threads, across multiple continents, why not snip the ones in your own backyard? Why trust villain A, but not trust B? It isn’t a complete misfire, but does not stand out. Not in broad daylight, but could easily be found with a black light. My respect does go to Sean Penn. He was able to create another middle age action guy that may even be able to compete with Liam Neeson. That was an expectation I didn’t have, but was presently surprised with.