- Run time: 2 Hours 2 Minutes
- Studio: Netflix
- Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
- Where to Watch: Netflix
After years in prison, a dangerous man is made an offer by the CIA. In exchange for commuting his sentence, he will be an asset from the CIA, a soldier who blends into the background and does the work that the CIA can’t legally do. He is given a new name – Six and he exists between the black and white reality that the rest of the world occupies. When his latest mission takes a turn for the worst, Six has a target put on his back and must figure out who the real enemies are.
Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans star in The Gray Man, an action movie adaptation by the Russo Brothers of Avengers fame. Adapted from a novel of the same name by Mark Greaney, The Gray Man is an espionage action thriller. Starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, and Billy Bob Thornton, The Gray Man is packed with globe trotting action and a semi-engaging story. While Gosling and Evans duke it out with gun play that would feel at home in a John Wick movie, Ana de Armas and Thornton put on a great show as supporting cast members. de Armas in particular seems to be unable to put on a bad performance and continues to win both small and big roles in some of the most acclaimed franchises. Thornton is likeable and fulfills the rough around the edges mentor role to Gosling’s character Six.
Without reading the source material I can’t tell if the story suffers from adaptation syndrome or not, but there are the usual indicators. For example, some of the story beats feel rushed and a little like the writers were “yes and”-ing themselves. Because of that, The Gray Man starts to fall apart somewhere at the 80 minute mark. Less and less of the character actions make sense and the dialogue devolves into a series of pained grunts and strained punches from the two leading men. The action scenes tend to get in the way of the already thin story, often opting to give the audience several (as my fiancé would say) ‘vroom vroom boom boom’ sequences instead of meaningful story and exposition. Granted, the concept isn’t compelling enough to really justify a deep and impactful plot. It just feels like something is missing, like when you forget to add salt to a dish.
Netflix has a habit of over CG-ing their movies. There are some incredibly poor looking drone or crane shots that are so blurry and rubbery that they could either be made with modeling clay or crunch time CGI from an overworked studio. Both are just as likely, and it looks horrid. Title cards litter the timeline of this movie to further remind the audience that this is a global movie and the characters have lots of money. The camerawork during the action sequences is typical Russo fare, with tight shots at the point of contact and plenty of stylized implied violence. There are some cool moments that are almost MacGyver-esque when Six engineers a unique way to get out of a trap.
All that said, The Gray Man somehow manages to be fun and entertaining. The phrase “Turn your brain off” has become a pretty big meme on some subreddits and while I’m guilty of saying that myself, I think the phrase still applies. This is a movie made for the audience to sit back, relax, and enjoy while shoving popcorn in their faces. With the investment made to earn almost a hundred million views in the first few days, Netflix has gone all in by officially making The Gray Man a cinematic universe with a full sequel and spin-off.