The Gray Man has the Ryan Gosling versus Chris Evans face off we’ve been anticipating. Find out if it’s worth he budget and hype!
Playing Captain America clearly had an effect on Chris Evans. You can tell by the way that he’s felt the need to play the opposite of that role a couple of times since then. The Gray Man is one of those times. And it’s interesting that the actor is doing it for the brothers who directed him as Cap for four films, Anthony and Joe Russo.
Evans’ performance is one of the most entertaining parts of this film, but there is more to talk about here. Ryan Gosling plays the title protagonist to Evans’ villain. It’s a matchup that’s easy to feel enthusiasm and anticipation for. Plus, this is one of Netflix’s most expensive original films to date. This movie had a lot going for it. In the end, though, The Gray Man turns out to be a mostly average action film with intermittent bursts of spectacle and fun.
“He saw the value in suffering.”
When you’ve got highly skilled covert operatives hopping from one beautiful city to another with bullets flying and explosions, well, exploding, that’s pretty standard action fare. And that’s what The Gray Man essentially is. Donald Fitzroy of the CIA, played by Billy Bob Thornton, recruits Court Gentry (Gosling) out of prison as part of the Sierra program, inmates who work in the field with their identity erased. In other words, to be a “gray man.”
Gentry becomes Sierra Six, and he’s good at it for 18 years. “Historically good,” in the words of one character. He has to prove that ability when evidence of the crimes of CIA Center Chief Denny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page) falls into his hands.
Carmichael sends operative-for-hire Lloyd Hansen (Evans) after Six. Hansen is a sociopath, immoral and violent. Because of his unhinged behavior, he only lasted five months at the CIA. The bounty Hansen places on Six is the least evil thing he does. And Evans has a ball with the character, never giving him even the tiniest touch of empathy to balance out the depravity.
Hansen’s trash ‘stache is just the icing on the cake. He quotes German pessimist philosophers and wears loafers. If you remember any line from this film, it’ll be one of his. I’ll never forget:
“Extra ten million to the one who can put a bullet in this Ken Doll’s brain.”
Yes, he says that about Gosling’s character. I KID YOU NOT!
“Can I chew gum in here?”
The presence of Evans and Gosling, as well as the showdown between them, elevates the film. On the whole, the supporting actors, like Thornton, Alfre Woodard, and Ana de Armas, are appealing to watch, too. But they make you wish the Russos had given the filmmaking more substance in other areas to support them. Big and noisy action sequences follow one after another, and while they seem like they should be distinctive on the surface, they just end up with the same chaotic, messy feel. An early hand-to-hand combat scene in the middle of a fireworks display offers a bit of visual interest, but really, the huge budget should’ve resulted in better.
The emotional beats throughout the story itself could’ve felt fresher, as well. In some instances, like Six’s interaction with Fitzroy’s young niece, the actors find enough compelling nuance to make it work. As for the ending, well, it’s clear the Russos wanted to leave open the option for a possible return to the world of this movie if it’s successful. Whether your enjoyment of the film is affected by that is something each viewer needs to judge for themselves. I’m neutral about it, and I feel like that says something about The Gray Man. I would say that, though Evans would be missed, Gosling as Six does generate interest in future possibilities.
3 1/2 stars out of 5