In Review: The Gunman

by Daniel Goodwin on 19/03/2015


In an apparent attempt to re-market himself as a middle-aged action star, Sean Penn stars in The Gunman as Jim Terrier: a special forces operative/ military contractor suffering from post-traumatic stress. After being tasked to kill a political figure in the Democratic Republic of Congo by a shifty associate (Javier Bardem), Terrier is forced to go on the run in an attempt to clear his name, punch bullets and reunite with the love of his life, Annie (Jasmine Trinca). While gallivanting across Europe, Terrier encounters various characters from his past including sceptical ex-colleague Cox (Mark Rylance), lolloping cockney bulldog Stan (Ray Winstone) and Interpol suit DuPont (Idris Elba).

After delivering the massively successful Taken (2008) and hilariously rubbish From Paris With Love (2010), director Pierre Morel’s latest film is an arid, mirthless and mechanical affair. Based on the 1981 novel The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette, this adaptation unravels with a plot punctuated by mostly naff action and trite dialogue (“Drive until you can’t drive no more!”) while the dicey political elements do little to bolster pithy set-pieces and fight sequences along with tetchy romance scenes between Terrier and Annie.

Where Pierre Morel’s previous two features had spats of unintentional hilarity; Liam Neeson’s classic phone threat monologue in Taken has proved perfect for parody and a sequence featuring John Travolta hanging out of a moving car with a rocket launcher in From Paris With Love was eye-wateringly insane, The Gunman has a couple of similar skits but as an action thriller it is painfully mediocre. Marred by clichés and stereotypes, Morel’s film also loses its footing due to a lack of plot ingenuity, set-piece innovation and a miscast leading man.

Penn delivers a decent performance with a ridiculously over-crafted action man physique but lacks the charm to generate required empathy for the role. Meanwhile, Javier Bardem is delectable as the seedy pseudo-villain Felix, Ray Winstone is in snarly grouch mode as deplorable gun for hire and Idris Elba is smooth as a spy on Terrier’s side yet despite the solid cast, there is surprisingly little in the way of character depth. As a result, The Gunman is far too light on its feet to make a notable impact as a political thriller and lacks the bravado to be fun enough for action fans, or anyone else for that matter.

Daniel has given The Gunman two Torches of Truth


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