Posted Oct 28 2015

The Gunman - This Movie Creaks And Croaks More Than Rocks

Dir: Pierre Morel

Starring Sean Penn, Ray Winstone, Idris Elba, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Badem

Once saw Dermot Murnaghan in a bakers in a tiny village in Cornwall buying Cornish pasties. He became the talk of the town for the next two days. It was, after all, a very small town. He opens The Gunman, in his more familiar guise as a Sky News anchor-person, going on about the humanitarian issues of the Congo. It’s obviously one of the elements of the film that appealed to its producer and part time activist Sean Penn.

He also finds himself there – first as a crack hit man assassin type, who loses his girl to Javier Badem, and then returns, eight years later as a digger of wells, in someway atoning for his sins of 8 years previous. We’re never sure why, given the man has been a gun for hire all of his adult life. When he’s there the first time his hair is wild and unruly; when he’s there for the betterment of mankind – he’s combed it. (It’s a Forest Whitaker-Taken 3 rubber band twiddling character trait.) He also surfs every morning outside the armoured compound, defying all authority (a rubber band character trait.) When bad guys come after him, he must examine his past to find out who put the hit on the hit man.

He starts with Rylance, who rarely makes movies but when he does he opts (in this case) to speak the whole thing with a randomly creaky sore throat for no reason (rubber band character trait.) He then moves on to his love rival Badem, who moves from being the smooth head of a majorly successful international company to a sexually threatened bumbling drunk in, oh, about 30 seconds. (Rubber band character trait.) They’re both in love in Trinca’s Annie who has no such rubber band issues, but does display refreshingly un-Hollywood-fixed teeth throughout. Speaking of teeth, Penn then develops “plaque of the brain” - no, we’re not making it up (rubber band character trait) and keeps having aural flashbacks of Rylance’s croaky frog-like voice, which is not pleasant even without the echo of said plaque.

What transpires thereafter is another in an increasing line of Hollywood actors of a certain age running around hitting and shooting everyone in sight to disprove their age. The Neeson-Effect, as it’s known. Penn is certainly beefy, he’s also a supremely watchable actor, but there’s not really much for him to do here that isn’t generic. (We’re really trying to avoid the geri-action term – Damn!)

Idris shows up briefly, Winstone is a geezer with bad hair, and Rylance croaks right up to the point where he…don’t won’t to spoil it.

Morel displays none of the immediacy of the original Taken, although one or two punch ups are visceral enough to engage. But the bullring-set finale (which the whole city of Barcelona disown in the end titles) is so arch, it’s almost comical.

And don’t get us started on the actual ending!

The Gunman has tanked at the box office for the very simple reason that it’s not very good. Sean, meanwhile, back in the real world, is now lined up to marry an actress several years his junior (rubber band character trait.)


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