July 22nd, 2022
MOVIE: THE GRAY MAN
STARRING: RYAN GOSLING, CHRIS EVANS, ANA DE ARMAS, BILLY BOB THORNTON
DIRECTED BY: ANTHONY RUSSO, JOE RUSSO
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
The state of cinema grows increasingly dire. Not just because the constant options at the megaplex is either a recent comic book tentpole or an animated escape for parents and their kids. It’s more depressing when we have a movie arrive like The Gray Man, the recent action film from Avengers: Endgame director’s Joe and Anthony Russo, which is an exercise in squandered potential, with an all-star cast of talented actors, large scale set pieces, and thrilling action is all erased by various mistakes. You waste a cool scene of stunts and fighting when the editing is a blurry woosh. You waste the thrills of a jet setting action film when the plot moves with zero cohesion. And you waste the potential of some of Hollywood’s coolest actors by making their characters bland or annoying. That’s the bottom line with The Gray Man, a spy thriller that delivers enough thrills but has a better movie deep below it, somewhere in between, lying within the gray void of missed opportunities.
My first thought is that The Gray Man would be much better in the hands of a better director, someone who has an actual style, an aesthetic that could separate it from other Netflix action movies like Red Notice or 6 Underground. The answer to what movie does it better than The Gray Man is Michael Bay’s Ambulance. No matter how ridiculous some moments in Bay’s Los Angeles heist, turned chase movie can be, it still has a great energy, and an original style that can only be described as Bay-hem. The Gray Man could have been made by anyone. It’s undoubtedly a Netflix movie, an algorithm based concoction that has beautiful people to look at, fast moving set pieces to get the dopamine hit, and a spy on a mission to rescue someone, creating the simple goal in mind for audiences to follow.
The title Gray Man is played by Ryan Gosling, whose spy name is Six, because he’s the sixth agent in CIA head Fitzroy’s (Billy Bob Thornton) group of ex-convicts turned spies. Now the agency, led by fancy new head Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page), is trying to dispose of the program, forcing spies to kill one another. When Six comes in possession of a drive with all the program’s dark secrets, this is when mustachioed mercenary Lloyd Hansen (a scene stealing Chris Evans) is hired, and his dispose of Six at all cost approach leads to a lot of chaos. This includes kidnapping Fitzroy’s niece Claire (Julia Butters) someone that Six cares about, and with the help of fellow spy Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas in a butt-kicking, but limited role) the spy fight becomes a global battle of gun blasts and fighting, with Six hoping he can stay alive.
One factor that kept bouncing around my brain when watching The Gray Man was how it certainly hopes you would never watch a movie such as The French Connection, Heat, or any of the Sean Connery James Bond films. If one was to erase all the great action cinema of the past, sure I could see how The Gray Man works, but it’s a far cry from being anything like that. A pair of set pieces, one involving a tram in Prague, and the final at the Chateau de Chantilly in France ruin the impact with fast cut editing, out of focus cinematography, and a fear of showing us the action head on. Gosling, de Armas, and Evans all do their own hand-to-hand combat fighting, move quickly, and have the charisma to make it look cool, but obviously the Russo’s would rather cheat the audience with special effects.
I personally think the biggest sin of The Gray Man is the waste of charm and talents of Ryan Gosling. With Top Gun: Maverick in the news constantly the question has been if there are any movie stars after Tom Cruise. I would argue that it’s Gosling, but his abilities are wasted here, where the Russo’s are obviously shooting for the fun Gosling had in The Nice Guys and the action presence he carried in Drive. Sadly, all of that good natured effort is wasted on another Netflix movie, something that has little to resonate in our minds. Much like many of the other Netflix action movies before this, The Gray Man is a lot of flash with nothing to hold onto. Feeling that way about movies is not what I wanted. It left me feeling gloomy and gray.
THE GRAY MAN IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AND AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX JULY 22ND, 2022
Written by: Leo Brady