18 April 2024
Scene from The Gray Man

Film Review – The Gray Man (2022)

The debate about the state of Netflix in 2022 is rumbling on: is the streamer out of ideas and out of time? Has the pandemic actually been a hindrance rather than a boost? Should the streamer start rein in their hugely expensive movies? Is it being overtaken? Questions, questions but the one thing that it has going for it over all the others, and the majority of the major studios, is that filmmakers are still being lured to them with the promise of being able to make the film they want, no matter the price. It’s an old school mentality – the “auteur” era of Hollywood ostensibly dying after Michael Cimino‘s Heaven’s Gate debacle – but one that, outside of the independents, is allowing filmmakers carte blanche, at least more so than they ever have before.

True, the majority of those films that have been “good” have been more prestige pictures like The Power of the Dog, Mank, or Roma, but Bright, Red Notice, and Persuasion have all added to the pressure on the streamer as to whether they should be allowing their blockbuster director’s full freedom, no matter the cost. The latest of them is The Gray Man, a $200million action-thriller that while being touted as the next “big” thing, doesn’t exactly help the cause despite being a hell of a lot more fun than some of those aforementioned big-scale entertainments. Brought to us by The Russo Brothers and writers Stephen McFeeley and Christopher Markus they of Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War and no strangers to such gigantic, all-encompassing endeavours – it certainly has enough bang for your buck (subscription) but its excessive, overbearing, stupendously loud facade won’t be for everyone, as early reviews have proved.

Along for the ride are the eclectic cast of Ryan Gosling, as the titular assassin (codenamed Sierra Six) with Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, still shaking off the shadow of “America’s Ass” as the man with the pornstar moustache and slip-on shoes sent to bring him in by high-up government officials Reģe-Jean Page and Jessica Henwick whilst Ana de Armas’ fellow undercover agent wrestles with which side her loyalties lie and Billy Bob Thornton chews gum and recruits bad people. It’s all very Bond/Bourne/Mission: Impossible, cranked up to the nth degree in the Russos’ bombastic, explosive world that is something of a cousin to Michael Bay’s AmbuLAnce from earlier this year given the excesses of drone cameras in all their swooping, vertigo-inducing glory. It’s fast, it’s frantic, it’s funny but even at a modest two hours, overstays its welcome by being both all too much in its execution and direction but far, far too little in its plot and characters, showcasing it’s flawed being up against those other champions of the genre.

Does it change the debate about Netflix any more than previous ones have done? Well, there’s definitely lots of bang for your buck but worth its not inconsequential budget you’d be right in thinking we should have got more than this. Sure there are some sequences that needed CGI to be fully realised and the ensemble doesn’t come cheap, but like Red Notice before it, you just wonder where all that money went. Still, as fun, outlandish thrill rides such as this go, this one is certainly rich.

★★★


2022 | Action, Thriller | Netflix | Dir: Anthony and Joe Russo | Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Rege-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton, Dhanush


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