While this did release briefly in theaters, I watched it on Netflix, and found it to be a perfectly entertaining streaming action flick.
Based on the book by Mark Greaney, The Gray Man begins by introducing us to the man who will be known as Six moving forward. Recruited in prison by Fitzroy, he goes to work for the CIA – a nameless assassin. On one particular mission, he is instructed to take out a target despite several kids and innocents in the way. He declines and becomes the next target of the CIA’s hit squads. When he evades them, head of the unit Carmichael is worried that he knows too much and resorts to some off-the-books assistance from standard psychopathic-hitman-with-unlimited-resources-and-connections Lloyd Hansen. Despite Carmichael’s number 2, Suzanne, having some issues with the way he is doing business, the CIA continues to pursue Six as he continues to evade Hansen and protect Fitzroy’s niece in the process. Action hijinks ensue.
Directed by the Russo brothers, this feels a bit like an action throwback – something I appreciate. Guy one chases guy two because he did the right thing in a difficult situation. Throw in a couple of good fight scenes and some big action set pieces – a fun way to kill a couple of hours. The Russos do a great job with making the movie feel big as it criss-crosses the globe by using their signature giant location title cards. The movie stays in its box, and the action scenes are good. The cast is surprisingly big in small parts, but I feel like that contributed to the enjoyment.
I cannot put my finger on what irritates me about Ryan Gosling, but something sure does. I didn’t buy him in this because I don’t usually buy him in action roles. I think Glen Powell or Jordan Calloway would have been a more interesting choice. Gosling plays it very small and contained – appropriate for the character, and certainly does a good job with the action. In fact, I think he is good in the movie, the issue is entirely mine. Will that affect me watching the planned sequel? We will see.
I do feel that Chris Evans stole this movie by going big and crazy with Lloyd. He’s over the top and playing with no conscious and with Six meant to be more stoic, it goes without saying that he steals the majority of the movie, especially scenes with Gosling.
Ana de Armas plays another agent who sides with Six and becomes his ally as he goes off-mission and then runs for his life. She is proving to be a good action star herself, and certainly holds her own here.
Billy Bob Thornton brings his patented guy-who-has-had-enough-of-your-sass-so-will-respond-with-his-own-sass to the role of Six’s mentor and friend while Julia Butters plays his niece. I enjoyed his performance as he attempts to not be surprised by anything that happens. Alfre Woodard plays Six’s other mentor, and both of them go out in explosions of their own making – so clearly, being Six’s mentor is not worth it.
Jessica Henwick plays Suzanne Brewer and Rege-Jean Page plays Carmichael. I really enjoyed the bit about how they and Lloyd all went to Harvard together, which is why they are all connected. Knowing how skilled she is at action, it was a little disappointing to see Henwick standing around in a suit becoming more and more distressed at Carmichael’s slide into villainy. Maybe she’ll get more to do in the sequel?
As Lloyd puts out the word to all squads of scary hitmen across the world (I would have liked to see a little more one squad at a time action – and each squad having distinctive characteristics as they encounter Six), Indian superstar Dhanush plays the Lone Wolf hitman who comes in to take down Six and then have a change of heart when he sees Lloyd put a kid in danger. He is incredibly charismatic and steals all his scenes.
Overall, the movie is fun and action-packed, just the right run time, and certainly entertaining enough for an evening stream. This is another one where I don’t know if I would have liked it as much if I had seen it in the theater, so I’m grateful it was a Netflix option.
6 out of 10 – extra point for random Shea Whigham and America’s Ass – even when Evans tries really hard to be someone else, his ass still looks amazing in those khakis.