Review: ‘Gray Man’ Spares No Expense – But Feels Oddly Gray

Sometimes a title doesn’t help a movie.

Not that directors Anthony and Joe Russo had much choice in the title “The Gray Man” their new Netflix spy thriller starring Ryan Gosling – they’re adapting the novel of the same name, about an obscure CIA assassin on the run. Still, it’s hard not to think of the title when considering the overall effect of a film that spares no expense in entertaining, but ends up feeling a little aimless, bemusedly bland, and – what is the word we are looking for? Oh yes. Grey.

It’s a bit of a shame when you spend 200 million dollars. And it’s not that we can’t see where the money went. First of all, Gosling, even with his charisma deliberately hampered here – call it the “graying” process – is still worth watching. But also, rarely has global chaos seemed so luxurious as in this adventure, which takes us from Bangkok to Baku, from Vienna to Croatia to Prague to France’s magnificent Chantilly Castle, from winding cobbled streets to grand castles and on to the sky, too – all in pursuit of one man.

The action is certainly impressive. Take a single scene the Russos dubbed a “movie within a movie” – and maybe they weren’t referring to the budget, but this shooting would have cost $40 million. In a picturesque square in Prague, Gosling’s character remains handcuffed to a bench – rather calmly, given the circumstances – as he battles waves of assassins (and possibly every extra and film vehicle available on the market). European continent.)

Then there’s the in-flight scene where Gosling fights off attackers who are suddenly ordered to kill him mid-air, which leads to a sequence involving fires, explosions, airdrops, and everything else you can imagine. If you’re like me, you may start to wonder: will this expensive manhunt reach the moon? I mean, we know Gosling has experience landing on the lunar surface. – so calmly. And what is one more shoot?

But it’s not the “First Man”, it’s the GRAY man. “You would exist in the gray,” CIA handler Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) tells Gosling’s character, then a young prison inmate looking decades in a murder cell, in a flashback. He will earn a get out of prison card if he accepts the case of the secret assassin.

Now, 18 years later, Sierra Six, or Six for short (because 007 was taken, he jokes) is hard at work. He’s in Bangkok, with his helper Dani (attractive but underutilized Ana de Armas) to kill someone at a New Year’s Eve party, run from afar by his current boss, Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page de “Bridgerton”, unfortunately given a cardboard role here, as is Jessica Henwick as a colleague). He is about to use his massive weapon when he notices a small child nearby. “Cleared for warranty, he was told. But Six doesn’t take the risk and ends up killing the old-fashioned way.

But before the man expires, he informs Six that he is actually on the same team and hands him a disk containing compromising information about their colleagues. “You’re probably next,” he said.

Now Six is ​​on the run. He is good at escaping (witness the park bench and the plane.) Enter LLoyd Hansen, the most sadistic of independent killers, whom we meet while torturing someone. Lloyd is so mean that even the CIA didn’t want him full time, but they need him now. Everything about Lloyd is extreme, starting with his mustache. Evans has fun being evil and gets a few good lines with real jalopies, one of the catchiest being, “Want to make an omelet?” You have to kill people. But honestly, the torture scenes… did we need that? Oh good?

Meanwhile, we learn through another flashback that Six has a close relationship with Fitzroy’s young niece, Claire (the charming 13-year-old Julia Butters from “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood.”) Claire, who lost his parents, has a heart problem and needs a pacemaker – an important plot point.

Other notable support players include Alfre Woodard in an all-too-brief round as a key Six ally and Dhanush as another expert killer called in for help. The expressive Butters gives, however, the most empathetic performance – to be fair, no one else is fully exchangeable, no matter what fancy degree they’ve got (“We all went to Harvard together” is a phrase that l university’s public relations team might want to protest immediately.)

And yes, Gosling’s Six is ​​attached to Claire, but the man is an assassin for hire, so it’s hard to root for him. And unlike the increasingly superhuman Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible,” a franchise this film may seek to emulate, we can’t even cheer Gosling on in a heroic battle against the dark force of aging. – he’s two decades younger than Cruise. .

Speaking of looking good, which Gosling still can’t help but do, there’s a Ken Doll reference here — perhaps a nod to his upcoming turn in the new Barbie movie. If you catch him, you might find yourself imagining what he’ll look like with blonde hair and a goofy smile.

To paraphrase The Muppets, it’s not easy being grey.

“The Gray Man, a Netflix release, was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America “for intense sequences of strong violence and strong language.” Runtime: 126 minutes. Two out of four stars.

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MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some content may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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