The Gray Man (2022)

The Gray Man
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Mark Greaney‘s novel
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Shea Whigham
Seen on: 1.9.2022

Many years ago, Six (Ryan Gosling) was recruited by Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton): in exchange for release from life-long imprisonment, Six would be an assassin for the CIA. Off the books, of course, taking on the cases that the CIA needs to handle quietly. His latest assassination goes a little awry, though. Six does succeed in killing the target, but also ends up with an encrypted drive and some doubts about Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) who was in charge of the operation. Rightly so, as Carmichael immediately hires the ruthlessly violent Lloyd (Chris Evans) to take Six down, triggering an international manhunt.

The Gray Man is completely what you’d expect which in this case is unfortunately more of a polite way to say that it is boring than satisfying. There are good moments and a whole lot of potential, but it just never goes anywhere.

The film poster showing Six (Ryan Gosling), looking over his shoulder, an eyebrow raised.

I’m not saying that there is nothing to enjoy about The Gray Man. Chris Evans hamming it up should happen more often. Ane de Armas is a wonderful spy. And Ryan Gosling is perfect for the stoic assassin of few words. The thing is: the film thinks that this is enough and that it doesn’t need to put in any more work. Casting the right people is definitely a good thing, but it’s not what you’d call character development.

That being said, the three of them do wrangle a lot from the shells that they get to play. Gosling even achieves something like an inner life for his character, as simple as it may be (the other two don’t really stand much of a chance given the script). Their charismatic presence in combination with the archetypical characters are enough that the film doesn’t fall apart completely.

Six (Ryan Gosling) looking down, gun in hand.

The plot isn’t particularly helpful for keeping things together, either. It’s too predictable for that. There are a couple of action scenes that are quite exciting, but other things are irritating. Like why set the film at such specific locations like the Hundertwasser house in Vienna, but then having it so clearly be neither that house nor Vienna? I mean, as an Austrian, this is particularly annoying, but also: why not just have the film set in Prague? It would even shorten the distance to Berlin, and since the timing isn’t quite right, I think, this might even help the film make sense. And as usual: that the film takes these liberties isn’t as damning as the fact that I had time to notice and be irritated by it, instead of being entertained by the story.

Despite all that, there is something to The Gray Man and its tried and tested plot, filmmaking and characters that keeps you in your seat and even gets a smile every once in a while. Is that as much to recommend it as it could have been, given cast and budget? No. But it could have been worse for sure.

Lloyd (Chris Evans) and Suzanne (Jessica Henwick) looking at something.

Summarizing: oh well.

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