The Gray Man

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

The Gray Man
dir Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
scr Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
prd Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Joe Roth, Jeffery Kirschenbaum
with Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Rege-Jean Page, Julia Butters, Alfre Woodard, Dhanush, Wagner Moura, Eme Ikwuakor, Scott Haze
release US/UK 15.Jul.22
22/US Netflix 2h02

evans de armas thornton

Is it streaming?

Every kind of action imaginable plays out at high-octane in this fast-paced, globe-hopping thriller. Thankfully, the cast is adept at injecting humour into even the most overblown set-pieces, lightening the tone and distracting from the overdoses of testosterone and weapon porn. Filmmakers Anthony and Joe Russo don't seem interested in nuance or understatement, but they do know how to take an audience on an engagingly outrageous rollercoaster ride.
Taken from prison and trained to be a CIA assassin, Six (Gosling) is the last agent standing after 18 years on the job. Now his ruthless new boss Carmichael (Page) wants him dead too, mainly because Six found a memory-stick containing incriminating evidence against him. When handler Dani (de Armas) deserts the agency to help Six, Carmichael hires Lloyd (Evans), a raging sociopath thrown out of the assassin programme due to his predilection for torture. Lloyd thinks that Six's former boss Fitzroy (Thornton) can help, grabbing both him and his niece Claire (Butters) for leverage.
Bouncing around the world from Bangkok to a castle in Croatia, the chase leaves a trail of destruction through Baku, Vienna and Prague. The explosive scale feels like James Bond, Mission: Impossible, Taken and John Wick whizzed together by Michael Bay. Each set piece is epic, from a mind-bendingly huge aerial fistfight-turned-freefall to an outrageously destructive tram chase to the tensely silent hedge-maze standoff finale. And it helps that the characters are well enough defined to keep us involved.

Gosling hasn't been this achingly cool since Drive. He makes Six an indelible figure who's utterly irresistible, especially as he prioritises his ragtag makeshift family. He may be physically indestructible (cue a shirtless muscle moment), but he's also vulnerable and charming. And he has hilariously snappy rapport with Evans, who's in barnstorming mode as the swaggering Lloyd. Thankfully, de Armas role also has some fiery depth to it, a woman who never needs a man to save or define her.

Even expert side players manage to add interest along the way, although most others are little more than cannon fodder. The script's central thesis seems to be that murdering bad guys (including faceless goons and off-screen collateral) is a surefire cure for internal trauma. But this is forgotten during wildly entertaining payoffs that will be best experienced on the big screen, plus a narrative that's thoroughly gripping right to the very end. We certainly won't mind the major dangling plot thread, as it hints that more is coming.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Jul.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall