Sunday 16 October 2022

Movie Review: The Gray Man (2022)

An action chase thriller, The Gray Man is brimming with spectacular set-pieces at the expense of everything else.

In 2003, a convicted murderer known only as Six (Ryan Gosling) is recruited by the CIA's Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) to join the Sierra shadow assassination program. By 2021 Fitzroy has been forced to retire and Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) is taking over, intent on shutting down Sierra. He uses Six and agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) to kill Four in Bangkok, but Six secures secret files damaging to Carmichael and becomes the next target.

Carmichael and his subordinate Suzanne Brewer (Jessica Henwick) recruit ruthless independent assassin Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), and he in turn places an international contract on Six. As the chase progresses across Europe, Six can only trust Fitzroy and Miranda as he seeks to stay alive and expose Carmichael's dirty secrets.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (who also co-wrote the script), The Gray Man is a stunts-and-CGI show, with barely a plot to hang the action on. The quality of execution is stellar, with slick cinematography, vivid colours, and imaginative near misses as one town centre after another is reduced to rubble (Prague is particularly hard done by). Some of the lines of dialogue are razor sharp, both Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans having fun playing up sardonic twists.

But in the absence of any meaningful characterizations or just causes, the core is hollow. The digital files triggering all the violence are a sterile MacGuffin, and the yet-another-internal-CIA battle is an exhausted premise. The film settles into a boring rinse-and-repeat cycle of chases, fights, shoot-outs, explosions, and close quarters bone crunching battles, with a ludicrously high body count.

Six demonstrates a remarkable ability to survive a near death experience every six (ok, eight) minutes, and a more amazing ability to quickly recover from severe puncture wounds. An attempt to place a child (Fitzroy's niece) in danger never rises above the status of cheap ploy. Alfre Woodard does make a welcome contribution in her one scene as a retired British intelligence head. 

Six and Lloyd square off for the obligatory final mano-a-mano battle about two hours in. The can fight each other, but they cannot defeat the get-it-over-with-already gray haze.

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