Ryan Gosling stars as The Gray Man’s Court Gentry.
The Gray Man (M, 128 min) Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo **½
There’s a moment, towards the end of what we might as well call the “second act” of The Gray Man, which I really hope Chris Evans, Ryan Gosling – and maybe even the Russo Brothers can see through. ‘irony.
A Tamil assassin has been sent to bring down Gosling’s titular super agent. But the fights have worn him down and he’s starting to realize that his paymasters aren’t the right ones in this scenario – and that Gosling and his friends aren’t the people he should be fighting.
“Let’s stop,” he said, “I don’t think I want these people’s money…they’re not good people.”
Now showing in select theaters, The Gray Man debuts on Netflix on July 22.
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The Russos and Evans have collaborated before, of course, on the conquering Marvel movies. The Russos directed Captain America: Civil War and The Winter Soldier, before becoming the highest-grossing filmmakers of all time directing Avengers: Infinity War and End Game. They lack neither money nor interesting projects to undertake. What kind of question arises…why would you bother with a generic, derived load of garbage like this?
The Gray Man is the first in a long-awaited franchise based on the books by Mark Greaney. The Gray Man is a lone assassin and former CIA agent, yadda yadda. All that really matters for our purposes is that he’s the latest in an endless line of that all-time male fantasy figure – the man-who-won’t-die.
Chris Evans takes on Ryan Gosling in The Gray Man.
Court Gentry aka The Gray Man, like John Wick, Jack Reacher, John Rambo and a hundred others, is a man of few words, hair-raising skills and an unbreakable, yet vaguely defined moral code. We know from the moment we meet him that he will still be bloodied, but alive by the end of the film and that each of the villains sent to destroy him will either be dead or recruited. And I have no problem with any of this. The purest expression of the genre over the past decade has been the John Wick franchise – and you’d be amazed if you knew how often I watch those movies.
But The Gray Man is not Wick. Despite the hundreds of millions in the budget, the undeniably spectacular action sequences – there’s a streetcar brawl here that’s absolutely jaw-dropping – there’s no substitute for wit, heart and a sense of humor. All of this is sorely lacking in The Gray Man.
Listen, for those of you for whom “big action” means a big movie, then go for it. But “big action” is really all The Gray Man has to offer.
Even with Evans, Gosling, Ana De Armas and Billy Bob Thornton delivering the script, it still barely brings a smile and quickly becomes a series of set pieces. Spectacular, yes, but useless, futile and repetitive. As the man said, “Let’s stop.”
Now showing in select theaters, The Gray Man premieres on Netflix on July 22.