Somewhere, however many years ago it was, a group of people gathered in a room and conceived “The Gunman.” The very same day, the screenplay was written, the film was cast, and principal photography began. Within a week, a cut was delivered to executives whom, upon viewing, O.K.’d it and set a release date. A few months later, I watched it myself. A few minutes in I smiled, not at the entertainment being provided to me, but at my own cunning in having chosen a seat so close to the exit ramp. For “The Gunman” is a film unworthy of your time, unworthy of your attention, unworthy of what it costs you to watch. It’s a zombie of a film, operating without respiratory or cognitive functions, shuffling around aimlessly and gurgling “moneeeey.”
Early in the film, we find gun-for-hire Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) living out his days as a humanitarian, volunteering for a charity group in the Congo. It’s a peaceful operation until mercenaries come brandishing machetes and looking for “the white man.” Terrier, ever the professional, takes them out with little effort. This is the first bit of real action, and it’s the moment when I lost all hope that the film would rise above its genre-imposed shackles. Terrier travels to London and fights some bad guys. Terrier travels to Barcelona and fights some bad guys. The movie is indeed a globetrotting event. Looking at it, though, you would swear it was shot in one location. Everything looks and feels old and tired. The film deflates, and the viewer along with it.
Flanking Sean Penn are Idris Elba and Javier Bardem as an Interpol agent and corrupt entrepreneur, respectively. Both actors are completely baffling in their roles. Elba’s screen time is limited to one full scene. He doesn’t appear until the third act though he receives second billing, and his appearance is so jarring that it would have behooved him to avoid appearing all together. Bardem is absolutely ludicrous, as if he recognized the quality of the production and decided to just have fun. When Penn goes to visit Bardem at his countryside retreat, the latter’s goofiness played against the former’s stoicism makes for a jarring scene.
Director Pierre Morel of “Taken” fame delivers the material in the blandest and most uninspiring of ways. The novelty of that film was the performance of a respected dramatic actor and his ability to transcend what was an otherwise unremarkable work. Perhaps Morel thought that lightning would strike twice, that the movie would succeed on the strength of its performers. The sad truth is that no one cared. It’s an absolute husk, vacant and aching for someone to fill a deep, dark void. There’s no creative ebb or flow, no exchange of ideas or emotions between art and artist, art and consumer. The movie offers nothing in exchange for the money it rips from your pockets.
I don’t have much to say. It’s so dull and boring and utterly, infuriatingly vapid. What it has to offer stops at the surface. It’s like that Wile E. Coyote cartoon where he paints the tunnel onto the wall only to see the Road Runner speed right through it, and Wile, in his attempts to follow, hits his head. The movie is a slight corruption of this set-up. In this case, the filmmakers have painted the tunnel. They’re waiting for you to smash your head.
Review by Lucas Dispoto