REVIEW: ‘The Gray Man’ is a violent but fast-paced throwback to action/spy movies of the past, with Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling chasing each other around the globe
SALT LAKE CITY — How do you know when Chris Evans plays the bad guy? Apparently, if he wears oversize sweaters or sports a Freddy Mercury-esque mustache/haircut combo. It’s the latter of the two that gives it away in The Gray Man, a new action flick from Netflix studios and the two brothers, Anthony and Joe Russo, who made some of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.
Evans, as he did in 2019’s Knives Out, plays against his Captain America-type again as a sadistic villain who chases Ryan Gosling‘s more honorable, but just-as-skilled assassin in this love letter to great action/spy movies of the past.
The Gray Man is Court Gentry, aka Sierra Six (Gosling). Gentry has been an assassin for years in the top-secret Sierra program, ever since Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) recruited him out of prison to train him to become a highly-skilled, CIA-sanctioned killer.
But after a mission goes wrong, Six discovers some dark secrets and suddenly he is the primary target of his own agency, desperate to get back the intel that Six has in his possession. It’s the reason they want him dead, but also the only thing keeping him alive.
Now, Six has to survive being hunted around the globe by a sadistic former CIA agent named Lloyd Hansen (Evans), a mercenary who is willing to go to any length and cause any collateral damage necessary to take Six down. But unlike those who are hunting him, the Gray Man doesn’t kill for pleasure or a price.
It’s a good thing Six has the beautiful and talented agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) on his side. Or does he? In the spy game, you never know for sure who you can trust.
THINGS I LIKED
The Gray Man was a pretty exciting action film that barely gives you a chance to catch your breath between big moments. If you’re familiar with the Russo brothers’ style of action and story pacing, you’ll notice similarities to their other work, especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It’s probably no coincidence that the Russos co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who also wrote Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Story moves quickly, characters may not always be what they seem, and it’s full of creative action choreography and locations.
There are fights on planes, trains and automobiles; fights in hospitals, nightclubs, and giant European mansions; fights in Bangkok, Berlin and Prague; even one fight as the characters dance around giant fireworks launchers that are going off.
The movie reminded me in a lot of ways of the Jason Bourne movie series, though I thought the action scenes here were cut a little less frenetically so you could actually tell what’s going on.
Perhaps the similarities come in part from the fact that both Bourne (written by Robert Ludlum) and Gray Man (written by Mark Greaney) are based on book series about spies. In fact, The Gray Man definitely leaves things open for a sequel.
The casting was excellent, Gosling’s stoic, professional, prepared agent stands in stark contrast to Evans’ impulsive, sarcastic, angry and sadistic hitman. Ana de Armas gets more action screen time than she did in No Time To Die and carries her scenes well. You’ll also see Alfre Woodard, Jessica Henwick, Julia Butters and Regé-Jean Page play key roles.
It also bears repeating, if your kids watch this thinking Chris Evans will be a good guy like he was in the Avengers movies, the movie will correct that notion quickly and forcibly.
The run time is just over two hours.
The Gray Man is a movie that would just as easily feel at home in the 1970’s as a spy thriller, in the 1990’s as a high-body-count action spectacle or in the 2000’s as a frenetic and violent Bourne movie copycat. If you are a fan of any of those types of movies then you are more likely to enjoy this one.
The charisma (and lets face it, good looks) of the cast helps make this a better-than-average action movie, but not quite good enough to be considered an all-time classic.
Andy’s final rating: TWO & A HALF out of FOUR stars
WHERE TO WATCH
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth does a weekly “What To Watch” segment for KSL 5 TV in Salt Lake City and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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