The Gunman, 2015.
Directed by Pierre Morel.
Starring Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Jasmine Trinca, Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone and Javier Bardem.
A sniper on a mercenary assassination team, kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding. Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.
In 2009 director Pierre Morel resurrected Liam Neeson’s career while simultaneously transforming him into an action star that as of late, is simply allergic to playing hard-boiled, down on their luck bad-asses that have a score to settle or someone to protect. You can’t go two months without Liam Neeson invading your local cinema, which makes the accomplishment of Morel’s Taken franchise that much more remarkable. So here we have The Gunman, which doesn’t star Liam Neeson but rather Sean Penn. Why? Maybe they thought lightning would strike twice, or maybe Liam Neeson was just too busy. It doesn’t really matter because The Gunman is hot garbage that should be filled with fire.
First of all, the narrative is a complete mess strung together with character motives that make no sense and a thematic identity crisis. One minute the movie is trying to serve up political social commentary, then the next it’s Sean Penn flexing his muscles and shooting dudes. The story was never intelligent to begin with, which makes it all the more shocking that the movie gradually gets dumber with each passing moment.
For an action movie parts of it are just boring too. The first 45 minutes of the movie are literally just Sean Penn globetrotting around the world talking to important people mentioning that someone tried to kill him. In between that are random scenes of him showering and loading guns. Riveting stuff.
Even when there is action playing out you can’t help but feel it’s all rather dull and no more interesting than a shootout in a Call of Duty game. Sean Penn is labeled as The Gunman but the gunplay is generic and does nothing to make this guy feel special. The lameness of the action sequences is attempted to be covered up by gratuitous amounts of blood, but again, none of the violence here will have you cheering at the screen. I expected much more style and insanity from a movie that chose to play Kid Rock’s American Badass all over its TV spots.
The Gunman‘s narrative shortcomings could have been accepted if the movie was at least fun to watch, but it’s not. The only way you won’t be able to figure out who the bad guy is would be is if this is the first movie you have ever watched in your life. Essentially, the movie is just two boring hours of waiting for the inevitable. The only praise I can give The Gunman is that Sean Penn really did hit the gym hard to bulk out for the role. Unfortunately, it was all for naught.
Maybe it is the poor direction that doesn’t give Sean Penn anything awesome to do, but he doesn’t even have a commanding presence or powerful intimidation factor to him. He just seems bored throughout the whole exercise, and in desperate hope that coasting off of his huge biceps will be enough to get audiences invested in his plight.
There is however one scene in the movie that is downright hilarious for all of the wrong reasons. It isn’t something action related, but rather Sean Penn doing something to someone that I can’t believe actually made it into the script let alone the final product. It is so random and unintentionally hilarious that for a short five seconds you might actually enjoy the movie while simultaneously wondering what the heck this movie has devolved into.
I guess this is the part where I make a bunch of bad jokes about how The Gunman is a misfire that shoots blanks, but I’d rather just be blunt and say stay the f** away from this movie.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook