The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/Netflix] - THE GRAY MAN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/Netflix] - THE GRAY MAN

the gray man review
A CIA agent uncovers a conspiracy.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton

the gray man poster

One of the defining moments of action cinema is the climactic brawl between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in 1972's Way of the Dragon. Were Lee and Norris two of the best actors available in 1972? No, but they were the best martial artists, and nobody was buying a ticket for Way of the Dragon expecting an acting masterclass. Just as it's better to cast singers and dancers who can't act in a musical than actors who can neither sing nor dance, in action movies it's better to cast people who can perform stunts and pull off convincing fights than actors who fail to convince as action stars.

the gray man review

Today, only straight to VOD movies feature real action stars, with big budget action movies fronted by accomplished actors, unless you count Tom Cruise, who at this point is both an accomplished actor and a fully fledged action star. Neither Ryan Gosling nor Chris Evans can hold a candle to Lee and Norris in the action stakes, so when they face off for a climactic duel at the end of the Russo brothers' bloated spy caper The Gray Man, it's not exactly an edge of your seat encounter.

Casting actors rather than martial artists has led to the practice of chopping up action scenes in a manner that's supposed to disguise the fact that the actors don’t know how to throw a punch or perform a spinning kick, but nobody is being fooled at this point. The action scenes in The Gray Man are torn to shreds with rapid fire editing, and are often drowned in blasts of light so as to further obscure its cast's limited physical abilities. The movie features more action sequences per minute than most, but they all blur into one two-hour piece of CG enhanced sludge.

the gray man review

If the script required a degree of acting talent, you might excuse the decision to cast Gosling ahead of let's say Scott Adkins, but the dialogue here is so simplistic even Steven Seagal might ask for a rewrite. A lot of it consists of characters either telling us who exactly they are or who other characters are. Said characters rarely live up to the hype. We're told Gosling's Six is the CIA's best agent, but throughout the film he fails to demonstrate this, often having to be bailed out by fellow agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) when he finds himself on the run from the agency after uncovering a conspiracy. We're likewise told that Evans' Lloyd Hansen is the world's top manhunter, yet he seems to make a terrible fist of tracking down and capturing Six.

The Gray Man can't quite figure out what type of spy movie it is. Depending on which scene you're watching it's either aiming to ape Roger Moore era Bond or Daniel Craig era Bond. As a character, Gosling's Six is all over the place. At times he's a taciturn Jason Bourne type, while elsewhere he's cracking one-liners, flipping back and forth between the silent tough guy he's played for Nicolas Winding Refn and the smartass of The Nice Guys. It's as though he had been written by two different screenwriters who forgot to share notes. The movie often seems to want to appear dark and gritty, but then Evans pops up as a cartoon character who insists on mocking the nonsensical nature of the movie he's in. With Evans's Hansen spending a lot of time looking at screens and making wisecracks about how silly the whole affair is, The Gray Man might be the first movie to double as its own Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode.

the gray man review

The movie's editing is such a mess that you'll struggle to figure out the timeline. It either takes place across two days or two weeks. The Russos don’t seem to have ever looked at a map of Europe, as characters manage to hop between continental capitals at an improbable speed. At one point Six is trapped in a hole rapidly filling with water, yet while this is happening Dani is able to drive from Berlin to Vienna in what couldn't be more than an hour. Other inconsistencies include a cellphone surviving a fall from a plane and a kid's record collection magically transporting from their home in Hong Kong to a CIA safe house in the US. I feel sorry for whoever has to edit this film's CinemaSins episode, as it will likely be longer than the actual movie.

The Gray Man is in UK/ROI cinemas now and on Netflix from July 22nd.

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