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The Gunman – Joint Review


Release Date: 20 March 2015 [USA]
Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Pete Travis & Don MacPherson [Screenplay] - Jean-Patrick Manchette [Novel]
Cast: Sean Penn - Javier Bardem - Mark Rylance - Jasmine Trinca - Ray Winstone - Idris Elba

Posted March 26, 2015 by

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The Gunman – Joint Review

Josh’s Perspective:

An all-too-familiar feeling surrounds director Pierre Morel’s latest film The Gunman.  As the saying goes, familiarity does occasionally breed contempt.  I cannot recommend The Gunman to you, but by acknowledging my contempt, I should be fair in saying that it is not a bad film.  The performances are steady, the pacing is fine, the foreign locales are well shot, and the action is tightly edited.  We’ve just seen this film too often, so we neither need, nor should we want for this film.

Sean Penn stars as Jim Terrier, a mercenary-for-hire with a heart of gold (aren’t they always?).  Penn is another quinquagenarian (yes, of course I looked up the word) trying his hand at an action role, but I sincerely do not believe it was for that reason alone.  It’s clear to see why Penn was attracted to the role, as it’s laced with a potent whiff of liberal guilt, topped with a crème fouettée of extreme anguish (yes, I looked up crème fouettée also).  When the film begins, he’s basically a hitman, doing bad things, with little to no thought on the moral complications, and voraciously loving a woman (Jasmine Trinca).  Typical man (amiright, ladies?).  He’s clearly in love with this woman as well, but stays true to the ol’ mercenary code and walks away after killing the “Minister of Mining” in the Congo.

We meet up with him eight years later in a different state, working to basically right what he hath wrought.  Hell, as it is wont to do, comes to breakfast for Jim, as he’s targeted while on one of his humanitarian missions.  Scared stiff, he seeks out his mercenary brethren to warn them, then kill the killers before they kill him.  Two of his former mates have already been offed, while the third (Mark Rylance) and fourth (Javier Bardem) are running their own multinational companies.  Rylance’s character is befuddled with Jim’s story, and gives half-hearted assurances that he’ll look into it (which, of course, tells the audience that we should be leery).  Bardem’s character, on the other hand, has wedded Jim’s former flame, and immediately gets on the defensive with him.  We know he’s bad news, because he’s Javier Bardem.

Luckily for Jim, he’s got a pal he can rely on.  If I asked you which actor was cast for the role of “trusty yet seedy English sidekick on the inside”, you’d guess Ray Winstone, right?  Of course you would, and the film doesn’t disappoint.  He even has a perfect trusty sidekick name in Stanley.  Jim, and the plot, need Stanley to get ‘another job’, which will inject him into the situation so he can find out why he has been targeted after all this time.  Of course, with international murder mysteries, we must have Interpol show up at some point, and that’s where Special Agent Awesome (Idris Elba, on-screen for all of three minutes) comes in, patiently waiting for the mercs to kill each other before he swoops in to catch the survivors in the act.  It’s all very standard and not very interesting.

If could call attention to one special item in regards to this production, it is Bardem.  For what seems like the umpteenth time now, he plays a role in which the character suffers some sort of massive bodily injury, contemplates or tempts death, or in which his visage is horrifically altered.  It pains me to think of why he continues to accept roles like this, and for that matter, appears to enjoy them.  I wonder why I haven’t sensed this before, but join me in reflection, dear reader: No Country For Old Men, The Sea Inside, Love In The Time Of Cholera, Skyfall, The Counselor, and now The Gunman.  The man clearly enjoys seeing himself maimed, harmed, or in decay.  You could say I’m done being excited about seeing him in films, at least until his Danse Macabre is finished already.

It sounds like I hate this, but I truly don’t.  The film doesn’t offend, and is made with a deft action hand.  Therein lies the issue, however.  As a tried and true formula action picture, it exists with the Bournes and Bonds and Takens that came before it; I’m going to forget this one, though.  I may have already.  Without a single memorable line, moment, or exuberance of charisma from any character, it would take a great deal of faith or fandom in Sean Penn or Bardem to truly remember it.  It simply exists, much like the Taken franchise does, but with a better actor in charge.  Wait, I remembered something- when I’m a quinquagenarian, I want my veins to pop out of my skin like Penn’s do here.  I’ll have what he’s having.

Written By:

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Josh Adams
Freelance Contributor


Theo’s Perspective:

After all these years, I still don’t know where to put Pierre Morel, as a good director or not. My first experience with him as a director was with ‘District 13’, but as the teenager that I was, I couldn’t really be critical of his work, although I was already convinced he was a pretty good cinematographer, given the work he had done with ‘Unleashed’ or ‘The Transporter’. But, with the disasters that was ‘From Paris With Love’, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch and judge ‘The Gunman’, a remake of a film ‘The Shock’, which is an adaptation of a French book published in 1981 ‘La Position du Tireur Couché’ (translated “The Prone Gunman’s Position”). Well, too late…

Back in 1996, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we meet James Terrier (Sean ‘Never Smiles’ Penn, from ‘The Tree of Life’, ‘Milk’ and ‘Mystic River’), a security officer working around a NGO that surrounds the conflicts zones in the country: due to political instability and lack of control around the mining areas, locals tends to fight one another to gain access to the wealth of the land. James and his teams are here to provide as much security as they can to the NGOs and to the western companies that are trying to get their piece of the cake, regarding the mines. But that last part is unknown by his girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca, from ‘Saint Laurent’, ‘The Caiman’, ‘Romanzo Criminale’), herself working as a medic for the benefit of the NGO, sheltering the casualties of the conflict. Felix (Javier Bardem, from ‘Skyfall’, ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona’, ‘No Country for Old Men’) is the handler of James’ team, he will eventually asked them to suit up and get ready to take care of a specific target, the DRC Minister of Mines. Of course, the designated shooter in the team is our friend Jimmy, well aware that he will have to leave the country after the kill, without a chance to say goodbye to Annie. The deed is done, the shooter leaves the country, and life goes back to normal.

Eight years later, by some mysterious reasons, Jimmy is back in DRC but in an actually NGO, using his talents to drill water wells for the people to use as freely as possible. But peace does not last forever for heroes, good or bad… After being himself the target of highly equipped mercenaries, he decides to go back in touch with his former teammates to try and understand why this attempt on his life occurred. Oh the suspense, oh the bleak outcome…

So of course, I wasn’t expecting much of the scenario, although I was surprised to learn that Sean Penn took part in the script (as well as in the production), but the final product is far from being repellent. The general performance is nice, the action sequence are actually really good but maybe too few (for an action movie, that is), the big critic that I would dare to formulate would be the same as usual: the movie opens and closes on a justified assessment on the state of the (part of the) world, but where I am expecting a bit more than a glimpse or two on an enthralling subject like that. Yes, it is our way of life, our way of consumption that is the cause of war over there, and yes there are casualties, and yes we don’t give a single capital F about that… So, yes, we do have our own problems to deal with, that’s what we say to ourselves to feel less guilty. But if in the process of dealing with our own problems we could avoid creating problems to other, that may be a good thing.

The Gunman” is not a masterpiece, but it’s far from being a huge dump, the cinematography, the editing and the direction in general are really pleasant, and it has this advantage, no matter what you might have think of it before, to make you really enjoy bullfighting as an entertaining way of getting closure. I’m just hoping, like really hoping, that this movie will not take the same path as ‘Taken’ and provide us with rounds and rounds of sequels, more useless than actually entertaining.

Please do note that this critic is made under the only appreciation of the movie, and not compared with the original movie or the original book. Maybe a person more purist than me we be able do do that in such a perspective.

Written By:

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Theo Tessa
Full Contributor


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