at the movies: the gunman

One of the drawbacks of having a limited number of movie days on the schedule is the feeling that you really should go to the movies when you have a chance, even if there’s nothing out that you particularly want to see. Which is how you end up going to see flicks like The Gunman, which, while not entirely horrible, is not exactly good either.

It’s somewhere between an action movie (though it lacks the large scale firefights, car chases and set pieces that make for a good action movie), a thriller (though it lacks the complex plot full of twists and turns that make for a good thriller) and a psychological-political think piece (and it didn’t hold my interest intellectually either). The last option, at least, requires a hero of some kind to have any heart at all, and the protagonist here, played by Sean Penn, is hardly that. He’s a mess, and a realistic if not particularly compelling one. He has his moments of cleverness and power, and Penn’s face is aging in an interesting way that sometimes make it worth looking at, but you never care about the character enough to enjoy making sense of his psychological gyrations. Good actors like Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, and Ray Winstone also appear: Winstone is excellent, Bardem less so.

Ratings for this film linger at the two star, 5 out of 10 level, and that seems fair to me. But that didn’t keep me from taking a few notes, which are behind the cut.

  • Some of the settings for the action sequences, like the bullring in Barcelona and the pump house of an aquarium in Gibraltar, were at least moderately novel.
  • In spite of the comment above, it was a relief to learn, from the end credits, that Barcelona is officially an anti-bullfighting city.
  • Nothing bad happened to a dog. Or to the nice little Alfa Romeo either.
  • At least there isn’t going to be a sequel, since the protagonist is dying from the results of a long history of traumatic brain injuries, as diagnosed by moviedom’s least believable neurologist. This is a realistic touch that is rather a bringdown– if it happened more often, as it probably should, action movies would be a lot less fun.  James Bond has had an awful lot of concussions over the years.
  • This is basically a French movie—based on French source material and directed by a French director. When the French make an action/thriller for the US market and it works, you get Ronin. When it doesn’t, you get this movie.
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