The current trend in Hollywood these days, if you haven’t noticed, is turning aging actors into action stars, and no one is better at it than director Pierre Morel, the man behind Taken which solidified Liam Neeson’s action stardom. The Gunman looks to create an action star persona for screen legend Sean Penn behind a star studded cast and political agenda driven plot which suits the actor to a tee. The problem is, the movie is more “been there, done that” than “wow! give me more!” and falters right from the start.
Terrier (Sean Penn) is an ex military man working for a a humanitarian organization in the People’s Republic of Congo, but secretly he is an assassin in waiting. After being contracted by Felix (Javier Bardem) to kill the minister of mines for a private firm, Terrier is forced to flee the country and leave behind Annie (Jasmine Trinca), a humanitarian doctor and the woman he has grown to love. Fearing for her safety, Terrier entrusts her life with Felix who swears to protect her. Eight years have past and Terrier returns to the Congo to work for an NGO, but eventually finds himself to be the target of a paid hit squad somehow connected to the ministers assassination. Realizing that he must find those responsible for the hit, Terrier leaves the Congo on a mission to search out his former colleagues and collect intel on the contract. Terrier realizes that turning over too many stones leads him straight back into the life and puts Annie in danger.
Sean Penn is one of the finest actors of our time and his performance in this film is not the problem, it’s the story. Director Pierre Morel isn’t sure whether he wants to make a political thriller or a James Bond movie and the end result winds up being a messy depiction of an all too familiar tale. The most frustrating part of this film is the use of the all star cast. Javier Bardem plays nothing more than a drunk, jealous jerk with aspirations to steal the girl and become rich. This role is beneath the acclaimed actor and provided none of the charisma that has brought to so many roles in the past. Idris Elba has a blink and you’ll miss him role that offers him so little screen time you’ll forget he’s even billed on the poster. Ray Winstone plays the exact same role he plays in every film only this time he does it more bloodier. I wish I had more positive to say about this cast but unfortunately, besides Penn, they all mailed this one in.
Overall, The Gunman is not going to redefine the action genre or turn Sean Penn into an action star, it might not even hold your interest for two hours. Chalk this one up to so much potential but poor execution.