Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Review: The Gunman

World of Blackout Film Review

The Gunman Poster

The Gunman
Cert: 15 / 115 mins / Dir. Pierre Morel / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Oh, Sean… you can soapbox your political views all you like, but if you're going to produce and star-in films like The Gunman then you can't expect to have your judgement taken too seriously. As much as this movie would like to assure its audience that it's an intelligent, political conspiracy thriller, it quickly becomes apparent that it's just a Liam Neeson film*1 with A-levels…

The Gunman is a competently assembled film, doesn't spoon-feed the audience too much and has some beautifully tense set-pieces. It also features some fantastic melee-choreography and enough 'wet-kills' to justify that 15 Certificate. So it's a bit of a shame really that the film doesn't bring enough to the party to set it apart from the other guests. Beginning with Penn as 'security contractor' Jim Terrier carrying out an assassination in the Democratic Republic of Congo*2, we then jump forward eight years as he reconnects with his former acquaintances in a bid to find out who's trying to permanently silence him. Yeah, you can pretty much guess the rest from there.

Despite Penn's contractually-assured shirtless scenes, he's really a bit too old to be starting in this genre. All that's missing from this performance is a comedic gripe about his bad hip. I expect more from Penn as an actor somehow, even though I don't particularly like him. This becomes part of the problem too; Sean Penn has the raw charisma to lead the film, but not the charm to be likeable while he's doing it. And if you can't like Jim Terrier, it's going to be an uncomfortable two hours. A fairly heavyweight cast surrounds him, pulling their weight with a laboured script, including Javier 'Skyfall' Bardem and Mark 'Wolf Hall' Rylance going full-pantomime (with the latter growling away like a pissed-up British Batman).

While it's never less than watchable, The Gunman is also never more than passable, and feels far longer than it's 115 minutes. It's also very considerate that Jim's Incredibly Fragile Brain Trauma™ is diagnosed in the first act then lies dormant throughout the bullet-ridden second one until the plot requires its resurgence at the film's climax. Although the best part for me was a script is so switched-on that at one point it has a rowdy skinhead start a fight in a pub in the East End of London, then mid-way through shout "call the fucking pigs!". A phrase which, for his character, sits on the real-life-probability-chart just behind "I really like crochet!". Although the hardened-reality of this film also has the characters engaging in a conversation between bursts of an un-silenced firefight indoors. I'm imagining the "military advisors" listed in the credits had the day off for the Spanish villa scene?

Say what you like about Penn's politics, but you've got to love his taste in Hawaiian shirts. They're certainly more colourful than his performance in The Gunman, anyway…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Probably not, to be honest.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Netflix / telly.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Not in the cases of the cast members whose work I'm familiar with, no.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I'd be very surprised if it did.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not particularly.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Of course there bloody isn't. What do you think this is, some two-bit action flick? …oh.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
The Gunman features a 'you-get-what-you-pay-for' performance from Ray Winstone, who starred in 'Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull' opposite the Corellian smuggler himself, Harrison Ford.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Oh, and as with Run All Night, the trailers for The Gunman included Cinderella, Minions and The Moomins. Who the fuck do Studio Canal think is watching a 15-rated film of Sean Penn shooting people in the face for two hours??

*2Where, it has to be said, not one person is shown to be drinking Um Bongo. Hollywood lies, yet again.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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