Shawn O’Brate

Last Friday on Netflix a very star-studded cast came to the big, red ‘N’ streaming service in the form of their new action-packed film, The Gray Man, and while Netflix has been in the news a lot more lately for their loss of 200,000+ subscribers in the first quarter of the year, this movie is sure to bring a few of them back.

After the success of Netflix’s Extraction the major streaming company has obviously found their niche in the action film market: find a Marvel Avenger to play the main role, fill the movie with guns, explosions, and fist fights, put simplistic-yet-not-overworked plot behind action, and then push advertising everywhere until everybody watches it. This is what they did with The Gray Man and it worked, for the most part.

The film follows a man known only as “Six”, played by Ryan Gosling (The Notebook, Drive, Blade Runner 2049), who was pulled out of prison by the CIA after murdering his abusive father as an adolescent. Agent Fitzroy of the CIA transforms him into one of the best assassins-slash-hit men-slash-secret agents the agency has ever seen but they don’t tell him about other agents like him.

After Fitzroy, played by Billy Bob Thornton (Goliath, Bad Santa, Sling Blade), retires, Six now has to report to Agent Carmichael, played by Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton, Roots, Mortal Engines). It’s obvious from the beginning that the first mission under Carmichael is not what it seems, with Six being asked to kill his target at a lavish party with children around, compromising Six’s moral compass. 

When Six eventually does complete his mission he learns about another member of the “Sierra” unit that he was trained in, with other hit men and agents pulled from prison as indentured murderers for the government, and that’s when the movie begins to get hairy–especially after they kidnap Fitzroy’s young niece who has a pacemaker. 

Six runs off with the asset that the fallen Sierra agent gave him, spawning a whole new chase that fully encapsulates the word ‘exhilarating’. Explosions galore, bare handed fight scenes, knives and guns used expertly, and one of the most intense car chase scenes in film history follow Six around the rest of the movie, helped by CIA agent Miranda–played by Ana de Armas (Knives Out, 007: No Time To Die, Blade Runner 2049). 

The action in this movie will keep you glued to your couch for the entirety of the 122-minute runtime but it’s the comedy from the sociopathic hitman that Carmichael calls up that will really make this film stand out amongst the Bourne’s and the 007’s, which mainly bring the gritty, violent thrills and beautiful, sexy women.

That sociopath, Lloyd Hansen, is played by Chris Evans (Avengers, Snowpiercer, Fantastic Four) who rarely gets to share his comedic chops with audiences–especially after a decade of playing the rigid, admirable, righteous Captain America–but in this film he steals the screen any time he’s on it with his thick, Tom Selleck-like mustache and his efficient comedic timing. 

Between Hansen, Six, and Miranda all filling the screen with bloody, over-the-top action and enough major world cities to fill up a passport two times over, the movie never truly remains stagnant with anyone or anywhere. That’s a good thing, and a bad one in some aspects. 

Why? Because right as you become interested in the action scene, or the plot thickening dialogue, some new city and some other character returns to the screen to bring the audience back down from the high of the train crashes, or the fingernail-removing torture, or the quick-cut drone shots showing gorgeous places like Prague, Croatia, or Baku. 

There’s a lot to love about this movie, even if you’re not a fan of action-thrillers or “spy” movies–even though they are not technically spies–and with every passing moment the plot of the film becomes more and more background noise to the well-timed comedy and the well-executed combat scenes. 

Callbacks to jokes from the beginning and middle of the movie keep the audience engaged and Evans’ choices and liberties taken with his maniacal character seriously make everyone in the living room want more of him. What’s even funnier is that Evans turned down the role of ‘Six’ so that he could play the villain, leading to Gosling taking the lead role and playing it to near perfection himself–also adding his own comedic tone to the film in certain parts.

The Russo brothers (Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War) being at the helm of this movie is one of the main reasons it was able to take routes that other secret agent movies simply can’t. Their $200 million budget helped in every aspect of the film, and with the instant success of the film there’s already been green lights for both a sequel and a spin-off series about one of the many hit men that go after Six throughout the movie.

There’s no reason why everybody in the family should not watch this film at least once. It’s got fierce, explosive, heavy-duty action that creates havoc all over the world–not just New York or Los Angeles like most movies nowadays–and the bits and pieces that make you laugh really make you giggle, no matter how quick or depraved the one-liner or set-up for the joke might be. And, unlike other movies in this genre, there’s no time in this movie where you’ll have to cover the kids’ eyes when the sultry seductress gets the agent in a room alone, but you might have to cover their ears every now and then from the explosions and sparse curse words.

Hopefully Netflix doesn’t beat this great idea into the ground by oversaturating the market like Marvel has, like Transformers has, or like how John Wick is slowly becoming. But, if they do, this movie will stand out as the sole reason Netflix could even attempt that type of approach.

The only unlikeable factors of the film are the easy-breezy, throwaway dialogue and somewhat-bland acting from Gosling and de Armas that was truly overshadowed by the delivery and the acting by Evans. But, other than that, the movie was more than just a dumb-downed Bourne movie, it was it’s own entity that has redeeming moments throughout the entire film. 

Overall score: 4.5 / 5 Pacemakers