Simon Morris reviews The Gunman - starring Sean Penn, Ray Winstone, Javier Bardem and Mark Rylance. Directed by Pierre Morel.
In purely industry terms, The Gunman got its green light off the back of Liam Neeson’s Taken films – middle-aged action-man is called back to duty.
The Gunman opens with Jimmy – Sean Penn – and his Italian girlfriend in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She’s a hard-working, good-doing nurse. He’s got a shifty, unspecified job that involves working nights, armed to the teeth.
It turns out he’s a gunman – one of a group hired by a shady mining company. And the job he’s off to is to be part of an assassination squad to hit a local politician. Jimmy draws the short straw. He has to do the deed, then leave Nurse Anne behind.
Jimmy manages to put his past behind him for a few years, and changes careers – from gunman to social worker in Africa. Social worker and social surfer, in this case.
I’m assuming the surfing bit was an attempt to add layers to a character that could use a few. It also gives Sean Penn a chance to take his top off. Considering Sean’s maturity, he’s in remarkably good shape. I know this because that top comes off regularly throughout The Gunman.
Like all the Taken films, The Gunman - once it gets going - is an extended chase movie, with our hero out to save his girlfriend and unmask the bad guys.
Unlike most of the Taken films it takes forever for the plot to unravel enough to get on with the chasing.
It’s a mess – one of those films where every single one of the producers managed to get his or her idea into the script, whether it fit or not.
Interestingly, the meta-argument about The Gunman is that it proves that audiences are tiring of middle-aged, male, action films. No they’re not. They’re tired of films that aren’t any good, but then they always were.