The Gray Man is the newest action flick from brainchild Russo Brothers-Chris Evans-Henry Jackman has delivered another tight, no-nonsense thriller with minimal tentpoling sequences and maximal knifing sequences. Bouying the crisp hand-to–hand choreography was a central large action set that spans various levels of suspension of disbelief. From the self-aware Prague square action set to a train crash reminiscent of Universal Studios’ LA King Kong Ride, watch Ryan “The Cooler Ryan” Gosling improbably survive situations that he really shouldn’t.
Opposite Gosling’s suave and sweet hero is Chris Evans’ creepy yet bland villain of the day. Hiding his domineering and sexy physique behind goofy polos and a pornstache to rival Johnny Sins, Evans delivers a fun, forgettable and ultimately shallow villain. One who is touted by the characters as a complete menace, yet fails to convince us through his actions that he’s anything worse than henchman with no motivation. For what it’s worth, it seems that Evans did have a fun time playing the antagonist.
The film balances exactly one theme across its runtime (are the CIA good guys or bad guys?), and manages only 2 sexist stereotypes. I’m chalking it up to a win, considering this is a movie starring a handful of white guys and a token Indian dude. This Indian dude’s (generic) alias is an animal that isn’t even present in India, and features the world’s laziest villain-to-hero change of hearts. The Asian CIA woman is a bossbitch who complains every time Evans makes a destructive, evil decision. No hate to her, but all the hate to the fact that half her screen time is her whining and complaining. The sickly niece is ‘damsel in distress’ not one, not two, but three different times in this film. Ana De Armas is cool, the old Black CIA retiree is fine as well. 2 for 4, not bad on the sexism meter.
Despite my glowing review, this film has some issues. The massive action sequence in the middle of the film is overshadowed with extremely irritating interjections from the peanut gallery, AKA technicians at their desk while actors talk up to green screen TV’s in another location. As Gosling is chased through Prague in a fresh-yet-classic action sequence, the events are expositioned by Evans and Asian CIA lady in a blue-lit control room. Evans blurts out awkward one-liners, while CIA lady complains about all the booms, bangs, guns and explosions. To be fair, it’s gonna make American news if someone shoots an RPG in the city of Prague. No one can point to Prague on a map, but they sure can tell you that white people live there- thus it must be important, and a poor place to have a weapon firing indiscriminately.
The ultimate showdown between our macho hunks is lacking in the otherwise bombastic visual spectacles of most of the movie. The rest of the action, however, is complete with car chases, train chases, an underwater sequence, jumping out of airplanes, grenade launchers, homemade explosives, computer hacking, car crashing, RBG lights flashing and Gosling-is-an-adoptive-dad tropes. There is a fun, new usage of drone shots during action sequences and establishing shots, which is a welcome innovation to the visuals of the genre. In my opinion, other directors may find better usage of drones in other films by using this one as a springboard of what to do and what not to do. What emotions they convey, how much attention they garner, etc.
Decent to great action, fairly tolerable characters, acceptable mix of live action and CGI, sufficient nods to Boomer Fears to get enough old men to watch it, gratuitous male toplessness to appease people who find that kind of thing attractive, enough minorities to appease the people with colored hair.
Speaking of minorities, I like that we had an Indian man as a mainline, active participant in a Hollywood film. His motivations are weak and his character development is otherwise nonexistent, but he does have costuming and mannerisms that are unoffensively Indian (ie the handwork on his kurtas, the mala as a little prop). We can almost forgive the shot where the holy beads are in the left hand of the actor- something Indians do not approve of (they consider the left hand unholy). He’s refreshingly not a racist caricature, which is a welcome breath of fresh air following Eternals. Speaking of which, Kamala Khan was a really, really, really great character, and all of her world building was excellent and brought me to tears. It was the first time someone like me was accurately and centrally portrayed in something as massive as the MCU.
SERIOUS lack of Evans Boobies in this movie. But it’s ok, I’ll just dry my tears on his beautiful mustache while making out with him… I’m sorry, I got a little out of hand. The movie is fun. Good for netflix-n-chill.