The Gray Man (2022)

Posted in Reviews by - December 30, 2022
The Gray Man (2022)

An adaption of Mark Greaney’s The Gray Man novel series about a former assassin for the CIA, this is one of Netflix’s most expensive films with a production budget of around $200m. It’s the sort of bloated, globe-trotting, star-studded action movie that might make many executives at Netflix question its long-term economic strategy, particularly at a time when the streaming platform is struggling with declining subscriber numbers. The Russo Brothers – responsible for the excellent Captain America and Avengers movies at Marvel Studios – bring their slick Hollywood operation to a new project (or ‘IP’, to use the appropriate studio lingo), one which sees them unshackled by the constraints of spandex-clad superheroes – although, as indestructible secret agent ‘Sierra Six’ (“007 was taken”), the immaculate Ryan Gosling might as well be a superhero, given how he survives a suicidal death dive from an exploding aeroplane, an extended gun battle and chase through Prague, and several repeated puncture wounds. Described as both a ‘Ken doll’ and a ‘robot’, he’s an emotionless killing machine sprung from prison to take out bad guys for the US government, until he starts to unearth corruption from within the very system that hired him. So, it’s basically the Bourne films again, only less taut, concise, or dramatic, made all the more sassy with a script full of zingy one-liners and a handsome cast. Chris Evans is a hoot as a preening rival spy sent to kill Gosling, applying lip-balm before enjoying another sadistic torture session; Ana de Armas expands on her scene-stealing action turn in No Time to Die to play a kick-ass killer who joins forces with Gosling; and Billy Bob Thornton is a fatherly presence as Gosling’s sacked CIA mentor, whose niece is kidnapped to add emotional depth to Sierra Six as he goes rogue to rescue her. Back at Langley, Jessica Henwick and Regé-Jean Page play arguing operatives yelling into telephones and computer screens trying to cover their tracks. For the most part, it seems the leads are quite physically involved in the film’s many action scenes, which follow the John Wick trend for brutal locks, holds, throws and knife attacks which feel grounded and authentic, if at times a little gimmicky (an early fight amid exploding fireworks is stagey, but the final slugfest between Evans and Gosling is raw and uncompromising). The film never quite settles down long enough for you to care about what is happening to the characters amid all the explosions, immaculate design and stunning locations. It’s ultimately quite a vacuous film, and far too long, but there are enough distractions to make it worth your while.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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