March 27, 2015

The Gunman

No genre for old men

Grade: C –
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Jasmine Trinca, Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone and Idris Elba
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Sandwiched between two slices of stale sanctimony over Western exploitation of mineral rights in Africa, the meat of The Gunman is slathered with thriller tropes, risible dialogue and an undercooked, over-seasoned plot.

Eight years after Jim Terrier (Sean Penn, buff but still brooding) and his small security clan carry out a political hit in the Congo, someone is trying to tie up loose ends. When gun-and-machete toting African marauders attempt to kill Terrier, now an aid worker, he instantly and inexplicably links it to the otherwise clandestine 2006 assassination and sets about tracking down who wants him dead. The trail leads from London to Barcelona, where Terrier reunites with ex-flame Annie (Jasmine Trinca, distractingly bad), now married to Terrier’s former running buddy Felix (Javier Bardem).

Along the way, Terrier develops a bad case of TBI concussion syndrome, although its come-and-go effects are primarily inopportune splitting headaches. Felix gets drunk, Annie mysteriously changes professions from nursing to school teaching, and the whole sorry spectacle ends at a bullfight. But the plot’s biggest problem is that it relies on innumerable assumptions and saw-it-coming plot twists, including the climactic fight-to-the-death that happens to end mere seconds before police arrive who could have simply arrested the bad guys.

The action sequences are choppy and unexciting, and the senseless narrative wastes good actors like Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone and Idris Elba (who gets second billing for about four minutes of screen time). Meanwhile, Bardem is awful and campy, thereby making him the only actor who apparently grasps the inanity.

Penn (also a producer of the film) teams with Taken director Pierre Morel, and in so doing reaches for a Liam Neeson-style cash grab. Unfortunately, Penn’s pecs and particular set of acting skills, both quite inflated, don’t jibe with this kitschy B-movie escapism.

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