REVIEW — “The Gunman”
Sean Penn may look the part, but he can’t walk the walk or talk the talk of a tough guy. Despite doing his best to channel his inner Liam Neeson, Sean Penn is unable to portray the tough guy attitude to go along with his new young guy physique, and that throws a wrench in the whole thing. Add to this the tried, tested and worn out plot (betray and back-stabbings in an action film? what?) mixed with under-developed secondary characters and a terrible female lead, and you have another lackluster action film to add to the genre.
The cast is equally the best and worst part of the entire thing. We all know Sean Penn is a very capable dramatic actor, but he has never really been able to make it as an action star. He has played tough guys in the past (Mickey Cohen from “Gangster Squad” was impressive), but when it comes to killing a lot of people he couldn’t realistically and believable cut it. I give him a lot of credit for bringing a ripped 30-year old body to play with, but he very much acts like a newly ripped guy that doesn’t know what he’s capable of yet, instead of this long time action bad-ass he is meant to be; the way he carries himself in the pic mirrors this. Javier Bardem does an excellent job with what he’s given, and the trailers do a good job of misleading you into certain perceptions of his character. However, while he is excellent his character is not. Poorly developed motives, and inexplicable actions lead him to having a confusing character that serves no purpose outside of moving the plot one step further, instead of contributing to the overall flow of the piece. This ties into the love interest played by a still not-yet-famous actress with a weird face, and even less talent. She reminds me of the red head cast in “Transporter 3;” just there for show, and to give the protagonist something to do/pursue. It’s very original to have a helpless damsel in distress…not. This is why “Haywire” was such a good flick. Toss in here that Ray Winstone was incredible as always, but also under-developed, and Idris Elba was all but cut from the film, and you have a disappointed viewer. Elba is in the trailer, on all the posters, but is in the film for literally less than 5 minutes. Disappoint.
Back to the action, since that’s what this movie is meant to be. Despite the 2-hours run time there just wasn’t enough action to go along with the weak story/writing. The boring and generic plot is only pushed forward by each incredible action sequence, some of which involve sneaking around and some involve flaming towels (seriously…it was pretty cool). There are, of course, some of your typical action clichés, but enough originality in the scenes to make them fun. Sean Penn really looks the part, physically, when kicking ass, but instead of feeling like this long-time bad-ass is slaying people it almost feels like someone’s newly in-shape dad is doing it. That’s kind of the vibe I got from him, and it made what he did, despite being in an action film, unbelievable.
Despite having some solid action scenes, Sean Penn is unable to believably portray an action bad-ass. The weak writing and under-developed characters turn this into a 2-hours long generic waste of time that is only highlighted by a few great action pieces, and some clichés. I don’t know why director Pierre Morel can’t put on his thinking cap, and come up with something original, but we can add this to his list of duds. 2/5