<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Pierre Morel. Starring Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, Idris Elba
While we love all the good ol’ actors from the 80s and 90s, it’s time for them to hang up their action shoes and play roles more befitting their age.
Liam Neeson is hobbling along in Run All Night and in The Gunman a beefed up Sean Penn is evading bad guys in a plot so thin and non-existent that you’ve lost interest after the first half hour. In any case, Penn is more known for his ‘acting’ roles rather than action but it looks like he’s trying to follow in Neeson’s footsteps and maybe he thought having the director of the first Taken film (Pierre Morel) would speed that along. Missed the mark completely!
The film starts off in the Democratic Republic of Congo where Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) – what a fucking strange name – and his love interest Annie (Jasmine Trinca) and their friend Felix (Javier Bardem) are working as aid workers and security during a time of unrest. But the boys have a secret, which you find out very early. The other secret is that Felix loves Annie but you realise that in the very first scene as if the director wanted to get that over with. A foreign minister is killed and the shooter – Jim of course – has to leave the country. Guess who Annie will end up with?
Cut to eight years later and Jim is not a hit man but a guy who digs wells back in Africa. Until of course three black men come to get him in what can only be described as the shoddiest hit ever and totally unbelievable considering the organisation that wants him out of the picture is portrayed as being super skilled and resourceful. So Jim must connect with old colleagues and find out who is trying to kill him while he stumbles around with plaque in his brain, coughing up blood and writing things down in his diaries so he won’t forget. Oh and Annie (Trinca) is back to play the damsel in distress who adds no value whatsoever to her part or the film.
You’ll shift in your chair and wonder what the hell is going on. None of the action or the plot points is the least bit interesting. They simply play out in long sequences with loud gunshots that give you a headache.
Sean Penn fails miserably as the geriatric action hero inspite of his hunky physique, which is on display for half of the film. Idris Elba as the Interpol agent pops up in the last half hour and unexplainably knows more about what’s happening in the film than Jim. But you still won’t get what’s going on. Javier Bardem is lovely with his dialogue and always good to watch but in this film his character is so woefully messed up (in the construction of motive and background) that he slips into the night.
The Gunman alludes to how corporations use political means in countries that are vulnerable to better than own financial interests there by exploiting the resources and manpower in those countries. But it’s like a sticker about ‘being kind’ on a truck load of ammunition. Speaking of which I wonder if violence, guns, cops, bad guys and blowing things up are the only things American movies are good for. They’re obsessed with guns and frankly I’m tired of that device popping up in all of their films to generate thrills or terror. In fact, I think Hollywood is probably the worst advertisement for the USA as a tourist destination: guns, drugs, violence, ghettos, racism, police brutality, and revenge killings… I certainly wouldn’t want to visit a place like that.