Taken director Pierre Morel‘s latest action film The Gunman stars the aging Sean Penn in a revenge thriller that attempts to revive and shift Penn’s career, much like what Taken did for Liam Neeson, only this time Morel and Penn deliver us a dud, with The Gunman playing out with a holey plot and little creative action. Sure, The Gunman is a good dose of R-rated action, but the plot’s pointlessly complicated story, mixed with Penn’s lack of on-screen charisma makes the film feel more like a chore than a popcorn flick. Penn is ripped and in the best shape of his career, but that’s not enough to warrant him doing an empty action flick that serves much better as an unknown rental than a trip to the theater.
Terrier (Sean Penn) is a gun-for-hire bodyguard that once worked with a team of deadly mercenaries in the Congo. But that was years ago and after an important job, Terrier was forced to give all that up and start a new life. Now, the memories of his old life are haunting his new one and soon he realizes that he’s being hunted for the sins of his past.
He tries to get in touch with friends from his old life (played rather unexcited by Javier Bardem among others), but all that does is drive him closer to no answers that make much of any sense. So, he does what he’s good at, which is killing anyone that gets in his way.
Pierre Morel‘s The Gunman is a rather cold and lifeless action flick, which may come as a surprise when you piece together that Morel directed Liam Neeson to action stardom in Taken, which actually worked quite efficiently as a decent revenge action flick, with a whole lot of action and a digestible plot that anyone with half a brain could follow. Sure, the sequels are all garbage, but Taken still holds up fairly well.
The Gunman does not. Sean Penn plays the leading role a little too firmly and without an ounce of fun or excitement. Terrier is a bland person to follow, even when he is kicking small amounts of ass in far too stretched out doses. The R-rated action provides a little blood and gore, but not much creativity, aside from your usual gun-play and occasional hand-to-hand combat, which is short, to the point and not all that great.
Penn’s supporting cast includes a decent list of names, like Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and the already mentioned Javier Bardem, but not a single man seems the least bit interested in the film’s actual plot. Elba sort of shows up out of nowhere to help wrap things up, while Winstone mostly sits around as Penn’s go-to guy. Bardem gets the most confusing role, kind of playing the bad guy, but only given minutes to do so before Morel decides that his film only needs Penn to survive.
But that’s The Gunman‘s biggest mistake. Sean Penn is a great actor…normally, but The Gunman just doesn’t suit him. He’s definitely not the next aging star turned last minute action bad ass. He’s always been better with drama and good scripts or even producing, but not exactly playing the tough guy with a hot streak. He looks great and is easily in the best shape of his career, but that doesn’t fill in for the film’s weak script that spends too much time trying to over complicate things, even though those things rarely make much sense towards the film’s overall story.
There’s no cool car chases to be found or even a memorable shoot out. The Gunman features a lot of different locations, but none of them make for fun action or exciting storytelling.
The Gunman is Sean Penn trying something new and mostly failing in his attempt. He’s still a good actor, but the film itself is a cold mess that constantly struggles to keep a heartbeat. The story is full of recycled cliches, while the action is passable at best. Director Pierre Morel has definitely lost his footing with this one, while Penn struggles to keep things afloat long enough before the next action scene.
The Gunman – 6.5/10