Take a Drink: when Penn is kicking some ass.
Do a Body Shot: when the action stops- you need something to occupy you.
Shotgun a Beer: when the hand to hand combat goes down.
Down a Jaeger Bomb: when the finale hits. Hopefully you fall asleep before.
By: Jake Turner (Five Beers) –
“Vanity. Definitely, my favorite sin.”
– Spoken with such eloquence by Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate.
With the likes of Liam Neeson and Tom Cruise dominating the box office with films out of the over-50’s genre cannon, Sean Penn, one of the finest actors in Hollywood, decided to throw his hat in the ring with The Gunman, a film he also produced and co-wrote.
Unfortunately, it is a large misfire, and Penn’s worst film.
I can only think of one time where Sean Penn gave a bad performance, and that was in Oliver Stone’ s U-Turn. It was one of the few times where Penn had no clue how to embrace his character. Penn delivers in complex fashion as usual here as Jim Terrier, an ex-Special Forces soldier who has to come to terms with the mistakes he made eight years ago.
Even though it happens sparsely, Penn knows how to be a man of action. His physique tells the story as he makes every shot necessary to show it off at age 52. Make no mistake, he is right for the part.
Director Pierre Morel has always been known for his slam-bang action sequences and is a fine sound editor to boot. There is one terrifically choreographed hand-to-hand combat sequence that will keep you awake, along with an action sequence or two more that feel absolutely real.
Morel and his cinematographer make excellent use of their locales as well. Breathtaking shots of Barcelona, Spain, Cape Town, South Africa, and London’s Aldermanbury Square do enough to almost keep you entertained on their own.
Even the most talented people can make a bomb every now and then. This was based on the novel The Prone Gunman, by Jean-Patrick Manchette. I don’t think Manchette had the idea of boring his audience from beginning to end. If you were expecting a slam-bang hitman vs hitman action film like the 1995 Richard Donner thriller, Assassins, then you will be immensely disappointed. Actually, the screenplay by Don MacPherson, Pete Travis, and Penn himself focuses more on ditching the love of his life after assassinating a mining president and dealing with PTSD.
Ah, yes. PTSD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. We all know how it should be dealt with. Films like Stop-Loss and American Sniper knew how to. The Gunman‘s idea is Penn holding onto his head and grunting to the point where he spits up blood. However, it is used as window draping because after he gets ahold of himself, he miraculously gets back to shooting down his enemies.
I kind of wish Kevin Costner would make a cameo and give him his magical formula from 3 Days to Kill
There’s nothing I can’t stand more than great actors being underused and just thrown out there. For example, what thought went through the filmmakers’ head to make Felix, a one-note character full of jealousy and always carrying a bottle of rum in his hand, theatrically played by Javier Bardem? Oh, so you all thought that Bardem was going to be the equal of Penn? Oh, please, that would take something called…
Also, Idris Elba just can’t catch a break as he is brought down to the level of an Interpol agent who spouts off about building a treehouse? A treehouse is used as a metaphor to close this case. It is a blink-and-you-will-miss-it cameo for Elba and that goes for Ray Winstone as well.
Son of a…
I’m sorry. But when I see three terrific and complex actors wasting their time in this slog it just annoys me. So much so that I don’t even want to talk about Winstone’s part. If you want to call it a part.
Finally, the film heads to its “climax” where I know the audience will get that great twenty minutes or so of intrigue and action. That would be a no. Instead, we end it with a lazy and uninspiring twist at a bullfight in Spain. To the point where I busted out of my chair and said, “What the hell?” I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing and obviously how big of a bullfighting fan Morel must be because he makes sure we appreciate the majesty of a matador.
I have a better idea. Why don’t we have Penn run with the bulls? It would have more convincing after such a dull bore of a film.
The Gunman is an astounding failure for the over-50 hero genre, even though Sean Penn gives it his all. It is hampered by a lame duck plot, glacial pacing, misled plot points, and sparse action to the point where you just can’t take it anymore. One of the worst films of 2015, way more inventive in its sound effects than its story.