Netflix has by chance provided the content for another post. I wish, though, that was not so – and you will soon understand why. We watched this the other night:
Wikipedia summarizes the reviews:
On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 50% of 180 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.6/10. The website’s consensus reads, “The Gray Man has the star-studded outline of an entertaining action thriller, but it’s filled in with lukewarm leftovers from far better films.”
I think that gets it about right. Seeing its promo, and with the cast it has, I was looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, having seen it, I was not impressed – to say the least.
Ryan Gosling can more than carry a film. He is a legit movie star for this generation. But here he has been given a turkey.
It has Ana de Armas also, who in just 10 minutes or so on screen we recall nearly stole the “James Bond” No Time To Die film. Here she is in the entire film, so you would think the filmmakers would make sure she – among the “hottest” women in films right now – is central to what goes on. Yet the screenwriting gives her nothing memorable to do or to say.
Speaking of “Bond,” it has (tiny) elements of “Bond” (such as main character Gosling – known as “Six”; at one point he dryly states that “007 was taken” – falling without a parachute from an about to crash aircraft, but you know of course he will make it to earth alive), as well as “Jack Reacher” (Gosling seems nearly invincible despite how much punishment his body takes), and “Jason Bourne” (fake passports, stashed away emergency money and info, and being on the run from an “agency” corrupt “deep state” group out to get the near-“superman” Gosling). However, there to me the comparisons – such as they might be made – with those characters and their films end. Most of the films with those characters look like Shakespeare compared to this one.
Wikipedia also tells us the film is adapted from a novel. Having learned of that before we watched it, as the film’s end credits rolled I could only but wonder to myself: Uh, what sort of a book is it? Does it have dialogue? For the dialogue in the film is sparse and the few good lines (such as they are) are handed mostly to headcase murderous baddie Chris Evans, wearing a mustache that makes him resemble a 1970s B-movie actor – which is apt in its way because while this may be Netflix’s most expensive production to date, it feels at times disturbingly second-rate.
Having grumbled here on Saturday you may recall about Netflix’s Persuasion adaptation, I wrote in that post that I am fed up with ahistorical and daffy “period modernizations.” Here what disgusted me is the nearly non-stop gratuitous violence. The Gray Man is basically a bloodbath interrupted occasionally by – not even memorable – bits of dialogue.
Worse is how that violence is in many respects cartoonish. After one fistfight and shoot ’em up that I recall seemed about “10 minutes” or so long, Gosling’s perfectly coiffed hair is only slightly mussed. I know not every story is the same, but still I recalled how I write violence: I do so only when I deem it NECESSARY and REASONABLE actually to “advance” the story, and I also try to write it in such a way as to make it clear that DEATH actually does matter:
In this film, though, most of the mayhem feels like “padding.” By the end, it dawned on me that if you edited out all of that – including not just fights and sadistic torture and killings, but car crashes, etc. – this two-hour film would be probably about an hour long. And that hour would also include lots of staring at the sky and various long glances and extended moments of “deep thinking.”
And the sheer body count is horrendous. For example, the street shoot-out in Prague quickly turns unbelievable and ludicrous. It starts with Gosling’s character having been arrested by police and handcuffed to a park bench, and eventually essentially a pitched battle takes place that feels like it goes on for longer and is more all-consuming than the Americans assaulting Utah Beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944.
That comparison with the killing on D-Day is I feel not an exaggeration. That day (not counting airborne, pilots, and sailors on ships just off the beach) 197 Americans died on Utah. In this film, you get the sense that number of people are butchered routinely at lunch.
I found myself reflecting also on the fact that there has also long been way too much of that sort of throwaway “video game” slaughter-fest violence c-ap in movies like this. It constitutes, in my opinion, vacuous and lazy filmmaking. Don’t have anything interesting to say? Blow up a building…
And then there is also real life…
Vinnystya, Ukraine is less than 750 miles (1,178 kms) from Prague – a single long day’s car journey. When the film was in production, including in Prague in July 2021, the KGB thug in Moscow had not yet launched his unprovoked World War II style land grab war against his Ukrainian neighbor. How the world can change in a few months.
The Gray Man was officially released on July 15, 2022, exactly one day after that missile attack on Vinnystya above. Given the real-death horrors we see occurring in Ukrainian streets, that Prague idiotic “battle” bothered me more than anything like it did ever before in a film. To term it poor “entertainment” timing and in appallingly bad taste are, frankly, understatements.