The Gray Man should be, on paper, a blockbuster affair.
When you’ve got an all-star cast of such names as Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Billy Bob Thornton, and Regé-Jean Page among others, it’s something that should be very hard to mess up.
Oh, it’s also helmed by the Russo Brothers with a whopping $200 million budget.
By all accounts, the latest Netflix show is a fun and entertaining watch – a perfect Netflix film worth a little over 2 hours of your time. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the film! That said, coming into it expecting anything more is something one should avoid.
Gosling is Sierra Six, a prisoner recruited by Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) to be part of an elite group of operatives. Due to some unfortunate circumstance, the tables have turned, and Gosling finds himself on the run across the globe as he is hunted by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) and every other killer on the payroll.
Given the premise, you’d think that the film will take on the likes of James Bond, Jason Bourne, or Mission Impossible, spy films that field in a good mix of both action and the secret spy stuff. The Gray Man leans one way and dials it up to 11, pushing out a film that is a rollercoaster ride of action sequence after action sequence with very little breathing time in between.
The choreography is quite good but nothing mind-blowing, and while it is very easy to enjoy the proceedings, The Gray Man is hindered at times by an overly shaky camera and bad lighting in a lot of scenes that made it a bit tough to follow.
In fact, it’s sad that this is the case, because you can see the potential if they were done better. The big encounter of the film happens in Prague, where Gosling, de Armas, and Evans figure in a big shootout that wrecks half of the city. The sequence is very well-lit with sweeping shots and creative sections, and is easily the most heart-racing part of The Gray Man.
I mentioned earlier that The Gray Man is the perfect Netflix film, and this is because it was an entertaining romp that’s easily digested with a beer and chips in hand. A “turn off your brain” type of movie that will leave you utterly satisfied. You’ve got guns, car chases, fisticuffs, crashing trains, exploding apartments, a garden maze sequence… If you think you’ve seen these before, The Gray Man includes everything all rolled into one film.
Expect more than this, however, and the cracks start to show.
Seen through this lens, my biggest gripe was that it wasn’t “smart” enough for those expecting a full-on spy film. The Gray Man was unusually straightforward without any complexities at all. No twists or big revelations and no backstabs, everything was very much predictable and cliche.
Despite running at a little over 2 hours, The Gray Man enjoys throwing barrage after barrage of action sequence at the audience, giving very little room for the characters to actually grow and evolve throughout the film, which is a wasted opportunity when you consider the lineup.
That said, The Gray Man was fun, and you can see that the cast enjoyed their roles, no matter how shallow they were. Evans, in particular, clearly enjoyed his stint as a villain, something he wasn’t able to do for the longest time under the Russo’s and the MCU, and he was fantastic and hilarious.
There were also a lot of cheesy moments and one liners that can either make you giggle or scratch your head, depending on your tolerance. I found it fun, even if it was predictable, and the audience will certainly find a few callbacks and references, especially for Evans and Gosling.
Overall, The Gray Man is a perfect example of setting expectations before watching a film. If you’re expecting a “smart” spy film that builds up to a big reveal, then you’ll be left out in the Gray. Go in expecting a fun romp and you’ll definitely leave with a smile on your face. The Russo’s had the exact target audience in mind when they made this film and the absolutely delivered on that front.
The Gray Man is now streaming on Netflix.