The Gray Man features a fantastic assortment of talent placed in a lukewarm story.
Published on August 4, 2022
Rating 2 /5
Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans fight each other in The Gray Man. That’s probably a decent enough sell, considering how these notable action stars are presented prominently in the marketing. Gosling and Evans have just the right amount of charisma to make them stick out from the myriad of other lukewarm muscle-bound actors you could cast for this type of film. Unfortunately, the script they’re saddled with is incomprehensibly baffling, even within the rather flexible genre of action conspiracy thrillers.
Gosling plays Sierra Six, a black ops CIA agent forced into missions to not remain in prison. Given this opportunity by CIA agent Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thorton), Sierra goes on globetrotting missions assassinating others. When he comes across one interesting target, he soon learns all about the Sierra program and how corrupt the CIA has become. Trying to cover this up, the CIA hires the disgraced former agent and contract killer Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to bring in Sierra Six. These two are destined to have a bloody showdown where they punch and stab each other, almost ordained by their first phone call.
Evans plays Lloyd as the hotheaded antagonist you can’t wait to see fail but not because of how sinister and intelligent he is with tracking down CIA agents. In fact, he’s really bad at this job considering his lack of concern for collateral damage or causing international incidents. When Lloyd thinks he has Sierra cornered, he doesn’t just send in expert assassins to finish the job. He instead sends in an army of trigger-happy gunmen who seem to do a better job shooting up an entire city block than they do one target. It doesn’t help that Gosling is handcuffed to a bench during most of this chaos. This leads to Lloyd screaming at his men about how none of them can kill this guy when he’s immobile and right out in the open. But it doesn’t feel like Lloyd is just yelling at his men. It feels like the audience is yelling at this movie.
The Gray Man attempts to add some heart to its story but it rarely hits and feels more standard than emotionally moving. Donald is captured by Lloyd and forced into working with this misfit agent or risk his niece being murdered. His niece has a heart condition and loves music. She also has a history with Sierra being her protector, making Sierra’s rescue operations of the girl a necessity alongside unraveling CIA corruption and killing Lloyd. Despite a bit of bite from Julia Butters in the role of the niece, she’s mostly just a damsel in distress, taking advice from Sierra to put on a record when he starts the killing. At least Ana de Armas is given a few more scenes to show off her fight skills as an ally of Sierra.
The script is littered with lackluster lines delivered by competent actors. Evans may look silly in his mustache fit for a football coach but he plays up his villainous character with the right amount of snark. It doesn’t help, however, that he’s given such laughably awful dialogue as “Let’s see if these move fuck” when preparing for a fight. He comes off less like a scheming mastermind and more like someone trying too hard to seem edgy. His joke about Gosling being a Ken doll feels bizarre, considering he literally is playing Ken in an upcoming Barbie movie.
All of these problems are disheartening because a lot of the action is pretty cool. Cars slam into each other, there’s a daring escape from a crashing plane, a shootout on a train, and a tense battle of guns and grenades at a villa. There’s a really cool moment where Gosling is on top of a train and manages to find just the right angle to kill his targets below by using the reflections of nearby buildings. Little moments like that showcase how the Russo brothers are capable of staging elaborate action sequences. It’s enough to make me wish someone handed them a better script that wasn’t based on a by-the-numbers spy-thriller novel.
The Gray Man features a fantastic assortment of talent placed in a lukewarm story. It’s decently serviceable for action sequences but falls incredibly short when considering the cliches and contrivances within the story. The movie can best be summed up by the roundabout shootout sequence. It looks cool and it’s intense. Of course, you have to forget that the only reason this scene is happening is that the villain is a hothead of a failed agent who doesn’t know how to covertly bring down another CIA agent. So while the action is great, the premise can easily be described by Thorton’s final line before exploding into bits: “Boring.”
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.