Action films are undeniably one of the genres of films that are just so exciting to watch — especially if done right. Netflix aims to bring us a huge blockbuster offering in the form of The Gray Man and we at This Is Hype Ph took the time to check it out in its entirety to review it for you all.
The Gray Man Review: A Brief Overview
The Gray Man is one of Netflix’s most ambitious films to date with a whopping budget of $200M — one of the biggest budgets yet to come out from the streaming juggernaut. The film also packs a huge punch in terms of its ensemble cast and directors. The film is directed and produced by the Russo brothers who are notably known as the men behind Captain America The Winter Soldier, Civil War, and the Avengers films Infinity War and Endgame. The Gray Man as mentioned also boasts a phenomenal cast of actors and actresses such as Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, and Billy Bob Thornton, just to name a few.
The Gray Man is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Mark Greaney and follows a convicted murderer turned CIA operative/assassin for the CIA’s Sierra program who is referred to in the film as Sierra Six (Gosling). In the film, Sierra Six gets entangled in a web of politics within the CIA as he is hunted down by the head of the organization in an attempt to recover comprising data that Six now possesses. Along the way, Six’s recruiter, CIA operative, and friend, Fitzroy gets caught up in the chaos as well together with his niece Claire with who Six had grown a unique bond in the past. Six also finds himself toe-to-toe with a ruthless psychopathic former CIA agent who is relentless in capturing and terminating Six no matter the cost.
The Gray Man Review: Spoiler Warnings
This review of The Gray Man will, for the most part, be spoiler-free however there may be some broad strokes that would tend to be a tad bit spoiler-y. We will focus on the standing of the movie as an action film, its pacing, and some notable performances from the ensemble cast.
An Overcrowding of Cliches
I’m going to be upfront and say it right off the bat, The Gray Man feels like Frankenstein’s monster of action films. The movie sadly has no real identity but is one that heavily relies on previous and familiar films. We get a lot of familiar influences that have collided together into The Gray Man. Let me mention a few shall we? The first few minutes and maybe even the central premise of the whole Sierra program is very resemblant to the Bourne franchise with the slight change from the Treadstone program. No, there isn’t any lack of memories when it comes to Six but there are a lot of resemblances when it comes to this particular direction. When we dive in deeper into the film, the high-stakes adventure, and stunts — including one that involves Six jumping off of a plane — remind us of the Mission Impossible franchise. I can’t of course forget the kidnapping of Claire, Fitzroy’s niece, as a ripoff — yes I said it — of Taken.
There are many little pieces from various movie influences that are jampacked into this movie. Whether this was done intentionally or not, it just honestly didn’t do the film justice. This is because the way in which The Gray Man does all of these is first and foremost uninventive. Secondly, the execution is very questionable. These moments that seemed to be taken off straight from previous films go to show a lack of overall creativity in reinventing the genre. Nothing new was offered to be quite frank and instead, numerous amounts of cliches and tropes were present in this one film. We even get the typical psychotic villain trope in Chris Evan’s character who seems to lack the needed communication skills as he has the need to shout the majority of his orders and commands. The film seems to pack everything you would expect out of an action film such as high-stakes car chases, grand and illogical stunts, and even down to constant betrayals and “heroic” deaths that were just too much for one film. Simply put, the story takes a back seat in The Gray Man with the focus primarily being fixed on the huge special effects and stunts rather than a substantial plot.
All these efforts in screaming out that this is in fact an action flick were for a lost cause as the story tried to accomplish so much all at once. Just by reading the synopsis above, you’ll get a pretty good idea of the number of sub-plots that the story takes on. It honestly is too much. That being said, The Gray Man still manages to create a very exhilarating ride given that you don’t think too much about what is going on. It’s a pretty straightforward mindless film that seems to be made for those in search of non-stop action. The exhilarating aspect of the film primarily comes in the form of the pacing of the film which in itself poses both great and negative qualities. While the pacing in itself is quite quick and remains consistent, there honestly isn’t enough room to breathe as things often move and transition immediately. The fight sequences and high-stakes scenes seem to have no end and is seen from the beginning until the very end. The moments where there is a resemblance of slowing down for exposition’s sake aren’t done well enough to keep the film exciting and instead end up like a mere roadblock before another intense action sequence arrives.
Does A Big Budget and Stellar Cast Equal Success?
As mentioned, The Gray Man boasts one of the biggest budget releases for Netflix. It is clearly seen why in terms of the quality of the film itself. The big special effects showcase where exactly each dollar was put into as the spectacle and grandeur of this blockbuster film seemed to have no limits. In terms of visuals and cinematography, the film truly is on another level. Again, it would have been better if the story was given the same amount of treatment as the visual aspect.
One of the other elements that were done well in this film was the casting of a great ensemble. Ryan Gosling first and foremost held his own in this film by adding the stern and somewhat unrelenting Sierra Six whose stoic facial expressions gave the feeling of a true ruthless assassin. Gosling was able to bring justice to the action superstar role which we have seen in the past with his hit films such as Blade Runner 2049 and Driver. This was balanced by the maniacal and psychotic performance of Chris Evans who steps in once again into a more villainous role compared to his all-American hero persona in the Marvel films. This isn’t the first time however for the actor as his bad side was previously seen in the crime-detective film, Knives Out which he starred alongside Ana De Armas. Her role in this film admittedly however didn’t bring out the best of the actress’ capabilities as she faded into the background at times which can also be said about the other big names in this film such as Regé-Jean Page who we have seen in the Bridgerton series and Billy Bob Thornton. The focus of this movie seemed to rely on the success of the Gosling and Evans feud and of course their stature in Hollywood. This is where The Gray Man seemed to draw the majority of its focus, in allowing the huge names and popularity of its cast to draw in the viewers.
To answer the question regarding the big budget equating to success as a whole when it comes to this particular movie the answer is sadly a no. It does however equate that there are some elements that truly benefited from the $200M budget.
The Gray Man Review: Final Verdict
In a nutshell, The Gray Man provides the exhilaration and spectacle that you would expect from an action film. It does however lack a substantial story to push it along. It’s a film that heavily relies on the special effects, stunts, and popularity of its ensemble cast. There are some great points about the film but ultimately it just gets lost amidst some better offerings in the same genre as it overcrowds itself with endless action film tropes and cliches.
Hype Meter: 6/10
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