THE GRAY MAN
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Julia Butters, Regé-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Alfre Woodard, and Dhanush
Directors: Joe & Anthony Russo
Hitmen, corrupt officials, gun fights, and car chases. Did I miss anything from every assassin movie of the past 25 years? Well, The Gray Man didn’t miss anything either, except it upgraded those things to hit squads, corrupt bosses, bazookas, and plane crashes. And you know what? Who cares!? The Russo Brothers direct the hell out of some action; Ryan Gosling’s default state is dry, sarcastic, and unkillable; and Ana De Armas keeps adding to her future 007 resume. Plus, damn was it good to get sinister Chris Evans back on screen. Good ass times. Good. Ass. Times.
Though it boasts some solid action (and it mostly works on that front), there seems to be a ceiling on The Gray Man’s potential that it can’t hope to break. The Russo Brothers’ sophomore , post-MCU directorial effort is messy and unfocused; there’s little to love and few things to really like beneath the surface. Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans are clearly having fun, but the movie itself gives them little to work with, while the rest of the ensemble gets even less. Even Ana de Armas seems held back here. Perhaps an R-rating would have reconciled those shortcomings.
The Gray Man has a lot of intrigue: the Russo brothers in the director's chair, Ryan Gosling's first role since 2018's First Man, and the continuation of Chris Evans playing bona fide assholes. Apparently, that’s a recipe for success because this film kicks all kinds of ass. The script has the whip-smart dialogue needed to set the right tone for the film, with the perfect cast to convey it (this is one of the best casted films I’ve seen in awhile), while the Russo Bros’ use of light and colour innovates and elevates each action sequence. I highly recommend you see this one in theatres.
As an assassin v. assassin story, The Gray Man is overly familiar and predictable, yet The Russo Brothers still managed to create an entertaining action spectacle that should be considered amongst the best Netflix Original Blockbusters. One airplane sequence and a few weirdly inserted drone shots aside, the cinematography, fight choreography, and stunt work are top notch, while Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans are clearly having a blast. I wish it were a bit quippier, but I’m here all day for badass Baby Goose and Evans’ douchebag villainy. Although The Gray Man may not be all that original, I’m 100% down for a sequel.
The Gray Man doesn’t have much going on in its bland gray matter. There are some decent action sequences and an attractive cast, but nothing really pops for me besides Chris Evans seemingly having a ball. It seems that Netflix is trying to spend all the money in the world to make their own Bond franchise, first with Red Notice and now this. But shouldn’t $200 million buy you something more than “just alright?” I mean, hey, watching two of my celebrity crushes (Ryan Gosling and Evans) kick each other’s asses was pretty hot, but other than that, it’s just another spy vs. spy film.
The Gray Man is a highly derivative spy film. While the action set pieces are impressive, the writing is a bit lackluster, even comical at times. Despite that (while also running about 20 minutes too long), there is enough to enjoy and be excited over. The fight choreography and camerawork in particular are eye-grabbing, while Chris Evans, by far the best reason to watch this movie, gives a fantastic performance. I’m hoping the upcoming installments will prove to be more unique and engaging, but for now, the series just has a lot of potential.