“The Gray Man” should come with a warning up front — “Think about what follows at your own risk” or something similar.
This movie is full of nonsensical plotting, dopey dialogue and brutal violence, much of which is visited on innocent bystanders. If it weren’t for the fantastic cast, who make the crummy part of this movie more palatable, it wouldn’t even be worth spending the time to watch it. But the cast saves “The Gray Man” and even makes it a good time.
Based on the novel of the same name by Mark Greaney, “The Gray Man” tracks a mysterious C.I.A. operative known only as “Six” (Ryan Gosling) after a mission he was on goes sideways. Desperate to save his own booty, C.I.A. scumbag Dunny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page) hires the looney and lethal Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to hunt down and eliminate Six by any means necessary.
Lloyd escalates things by kidnapping the closest people Six has to family, his trainer Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) and niece Claire (Julia Butters). To rescue his nearest and dearest, Six forms an uneasy alliance with Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas). Can they save the day or will Lloyd destroy all of Prague in his pursuit of them?
“The Gray Man” plays like a brainless version of “The Bourne Identity” without the shaky hand-held camera work. The government tries to stop an unstoppable man before he can ruin them. It also feels a bit like a superhero movie, where nobody can really hurt the story’s two main adversaries except for each other and everyone else trying to stop them is merely an inconvenience.
That’s appropriate, considering the directors Anthony and Joe Russo were in the director’s chairs for “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame.” They are fully capable of pulling off this kind of punchy-punchy-shooty-shooty action. They pace the story so briskly that there’s rarely a moment to breathe between action set pieces. The story is less a narrative and more a clothesline for the filmmakers to hang big action scenes on.
As a result, “The Gray Man” is cacophonously noisy with little to say and even less on its mind. The plot is fairly ludicrous stuff and starts to fall apart if you think about it for even a second. It’s also not a very pretty movie to look at, with the color palette of most scenes shifted heavily in the direction of the reds and the greys. Huh. Maybe that’s some kind of directorial storytelling device.
Anyway, there is one thing about “The Gray Man” which is unassailably awesome and that’s the cast. Gosling does the stoic hero thing very well. His eyes tell you who he is without his mouth having to say a word. De Armas is great fun in her role, too, as a tough, gritty agent who cares about what’s right and is capable of doing what it takes. Thornton is his usual insouciant, wise-cracking stuff and Alfre Woodard is great in a small role.
But Evans steals this movie. He plays Lloyd like a more unstable version of his character from “Knives Out.” He’s the kind of guy who enjoys being awful and does so with a gleam in his eye. This movie would be so much less fun without Evans in it. Maybe he should go see a chiropractor because carrying a whole movie like this one can be really bad for your back.
The cast breathes life into characters that might otherwise have been flat and uninteresting. They make the truly lame dialogue almost passable by delivering it with attitude. The cast of “The Gray Man” save this movie. It’s inarguable.
Overall, “The Gray Man” isn’t anything to write home about. But if you’re looking for an action-packed romp with a great cast who truly look like they were having fun on set and you can turn your brain off and just watch, “The Gray Man” delivers.
”The Gray Man” is currently streaming on Netflix.