Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Writers: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Anda de Armas, Jessica Henwick, and Billy Bob Thornton
Netflix’s new spy thriller The Gray Man is based on the book of the same name by Mark Greaney. It’s been over ten years since a film adaptation was first announced, with Brad Pitt in the title role, and in the years since there’s been a couple of attempts to get an adaptation of the ground, but it didn’t get anywhere. The actual film was directed by the Russo brothers, who previously directed Avengers Infinity War and Endgame.
Ryan Gosling stars a Sierra Six, a CIA assassin who lives his life in the shadows. After a hit goes wrong, since Six tries to avoid collateral damage, Six learns that his target was actually a former agent, Sierra Four. In his dying moments Four gives Six a drive that contains proof of corruption within the CIA, specifically of Denny Carmichael. Six investigates further, uncovering the truth, but Carmichael sends an assassin after him, Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) and Six doesn’t know who he can trust.
The Gray Man has a really great cast with Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans going up against each other. Chris Evans makes a good villain, torturing to get what he wants. Ryan Gosling is brilliant, as always, instantly grabbing you into the world of the film. The story is a little more formulaic and you’ll see plenty of moments coming before they do. There’s also, sadly, a few stupid moments where things happen in order to continue the plot. A villain has the opportunity to kill Gosling, but just doesn’t. Things like that are really annoying in spy thrillers, but not the end of the world.
The action in the film is mostly great, from close-up combat, shoot outs, and some great big fights. It’s all really well choreographed and looks intense. Letting it down is a lot of flashy and sometimes awkward camera work, with shots flying all over the place. At points it seems to be more focused on showing off the budget, as if the cast list doesn’t do that already, instead of making the action exciting. When it is more grounded and focused is when it really works.
For the most part the film is played really seriously, even though it’s plot is completely over the top and there are some insane set pieces. Throughout there is still some moments of comedy, especially from Chris Evans who seems to be having a great time. It injects some much-needed lightness to the film, and it’s a shame it doesn’t lean into the comedy more. At one point Evans even calls Gosling a ‘Ken doll’, which apparently is just a coincidence as the film was made before Gosling was cast in the upcoming Barbie film, but it’s still funnier because of the accidental reference.
The Gray Man is pretty good, despite it’s length and cliched story. It does what it sets out to do, and is entertaining while doing so. It’s not the most exciting spy film, but it’s not the worst thing to watch on Netflix. It’s highly polished and if there are further adaptations of the long running book series, hopefully it can build upon the foundations in this film.
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