REVIEW: “The Gunman” not close to a standout action thriller

By Chase Rowe, Staff–

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

From Pierre Morel, the director of Taken, comes another action thriller – “The Gunman”. “Action thriller”, however, is somewhat of a misleading label for the film; though action-packed,
the movie’s lack of originality makes it another altogether un-thrilling action flick.

The film centers around the story of ex-military contractor Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) as he struggles to leave behind his violent past. However, Terrier poses a major threat to his former contractor – he has crucial records of the underhanded assassination of an African mining tycoon that he performed years ago.

From there, it’s a story we’ve all heard a thousand times. The ex-military hero fights off waves of evil baddies, surviving against all odds, defending the unarmed and useless female protagonist, and finally brings down the ultimate leader of the enemy forces before he rides off into the sunset with the girl under his arm.

It’s a story that Morel has already told, too – in his most famous movie “Taken”, where the protagonist is ex-CIA forced back into action. Other action films like “Rambo” and “Red” have the same overused premise.

“The Gunman” does have some worthy themes, but they’re as blaring and loud as the guns that will occasionally make audiences jump during the film. The movie clearly criticizes the exploitation of the third-world, and a reporter even says it outright in the end in case you missed it.

But as an action movie, of course, “The Gunman” is all about the fighting and explosions. The fight scenes are violent and bloody, and teeter on the edge of gratuitous – but they’re not too grisly to the point where it becomes pointless gore. While the shooting and explosion effects are well-rendered, the close-combat scenes are shaky and confusing. Often it seems that the camera is thrown into a washing machine before melee combat happens, and then taken out afterwards.

The acting ranges from mediocre to acceptable. While some characters like Barnes (Idris Elba), Felix (Javier Bardem), and Annie (Jasmine Trinca) play convincing roles, Cox’s (Mark Rylance) bad acting and terrible British accent combined with the emotionless line delivery of the “bad guys” hurts the movie overall.

There’s nothing horribly wrong with “The Gunman”. There are no glaringly obvious mistakes, no insultingly bad aspects of it. But there’s nothing terribly good about it, either. “The Gunman” fails to bring anything new or interesting to the theater, and, at best, achieves mediocrity.

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