Director: Pierre Morel
Cast: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone
It seems like Sean Penn, during his mid-life crisis, looked at the box office of the 'Taken' films, asked Liam Neeson the secret to his post mid-life success and decided to be in the game. The result is 'The Gunman', a snooze inducing and derivative drama-thriller that makes 'Run All Night' seem like a classic.
Sean Penn in 'The Gunman'. Pic/Santa Banta
Weirdly, the film starts out at Congo, where Penn's sniper rifle expert character Jim Terrier takes out a major politician in charge of mining in the region. After completing the mission, Terrier is extracted from the region and given a new identity and life, which he spends helping African villagers have a better livelihood. Eight years later a bunch of people pop out to attack him and he figures out his cover is blown, and that someone leaked his identity to people connected to his Congo target. He also finds out his ex-girlfriend Annie is now mysteriously married to his friend from back in the day. The film then takes us through Terrier shooting through stuff to get to the bottom of the mystery.
The problem with the film is that despite being set in locales like Africa and Europe it feels incredibly bland. The plot is generic to begin with, and there is no energy anchoring the story to make it all worthwhile. This is also supposed to be an action movie but there is very little action stuff in the film. Instead, the movie proceeds to be a tedious love story between Terrier and Annie on the run, the latter of which is the standard damsel-in-distress in need of a hero. The identity of the villain is also painfully obvious from the start yet we're offered the twist in a ham-handed fashion in third act.
There's nothing as such in the film that's commendable, save for Penn's physique at his age. But his character seems like he belongs in an 'Expendables' movie rather than the super serious drama in this movie. There are a barrage of cameos from big names like Ray Winstone, Idris Elba and Javier Bardem, and they feel like they were obligated to do the film because of their friendship to Penn. None of their characters make any addition to the story. In fact, Elba's Interpol agent, literally, has one scene on a park bench where he asks Terrier to give him a call. Perhaps they all had bigger roles and were left out in the cutting room floor to make way for the uninspired love story in the film. Not a good decision.