The combination of the efficient action director Pierre Morel (Taken) and the acting talent led by Penn produces a richly enjoyable genre pic. Penn hasn’t played a major role since 2011s This Must be the Place, deciding to use his talents for helping the displaced and dispossessed in places like Haiti and New Orleans. Clealry his experience in these environments ravaged by poverty, internal corruption and exploitation from multinational companies has framed the narrative of The Gunman. Penn also writes and produces the film. Edging 55 years of age, the lines in his face are more pronounced, however the muscular frame on display hints at a man half his age.
The plot is reasonably straightforward, it begins in 2006 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Penn plays Terrier a former special ops soldier who is part of a security force protecting NGO workers. His interest is heightened by a romance with NGO Doctor Annie (Trinca), who seems to have another admirer Felix, played by Javier Bardem. But Rerrier and his team harbour a secret, he’s a hired assasin working for a multi-national mining company intent on protecting their interests at all costs. Bang!! Cut to 8 years later and Terrier has become a born again humanitarian working for an NGO, helping the people of the Congo drill for water and surfing in his spare time. The arrival of hired assasins hired to clean house, triggers a cat and mouse chase throughout Europe including London and Barcelona. Car chases, shoot em ups, hand to hand combat, and a mean bull add colour to the proceedings.
Penn is the actor on show, equally adept at conveying the emotion in a scene whilst dispatching of a multitude of bad guys. Morel has a track record of re-engineering audience perception of actors. For evidence look at Liam Neeson’s career post Morel’s Taken. In supporting roles Bardem, Winstone and Rylance provide quality support. In this type of pic editing is the key and Mark Eckersley (Dredd/Filth) does a fine job. The remarkable Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire) provides the cinematography and production design by Mark Digby Slumdog/Rush).