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The Gunman Review

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Remember when action movies starred young and enthusiastic Hollywood stars? You'd be forgiven for not being able to remember the last time you went to a cinema and the latest thriller didn't star Liam Neeson. Nowadays action movies are a place for aging stars to try and revitalise a flagging career and try to show off a flair for kicking ass.

The latest such star is Sean Penn in The Gunman, a vaguely political thriller from Pierre Morel, director of the movie that started this geri-actioner craze, Taken. I say vaguely political, because as far as story goes, The Gunman is to politics as The Transporter was to the automobile industry.


Penn plays Jim Terrier, a grizzled ex special forces working security for a mining company in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He also moonlights as an assassin, and takes on a shadowy job that sees him forced to flee the country, leaving behind his lady and tasking a fellow mercenary with looking after her. Fast forward the better part of a decade and he's a changed man, devoting his time to humanitarian work in an effort to make right some of the wrongs he has done. When a hit squad tries to eliminate him on his return to the DRC, Terrier goes all Bryan Mills on them and realises it's time to face up to his past.

There's no doubting that Penn sees this movie as a stepping stone to returning to the top of the box office, and even had himself on co-writing and producing duties. He's put serious time in at the gym, and is at pains to show off his 54-year-old rock hard abs at every opportunity. Somewhere, Sylvester Stallone is taking notes. The problem is, it's all been done before, and much better. The world weary action star is becoming all too commonplace and The Gunman, while undeniably slick and polished, doesn't offer anything to make it stand out.


Worse still, despite Penn putting his body through the ringer for the film, a pointless and ill-advised character trait sees him react badly to stressful situations; diagnosed with "post-concussion syndrome", he starts to feel dizzy at the most inopportune of moments, considering his job description.

The Gunman's biggest flaw is bad writing, and Penn must shoulder some of the blame here, This is his movie, and despite an impressive supporting cast (the likes of Javier Bardem, Idris Elba and Ray Winstone all crop up at various points on the globetrotting adventure) the story feels jaded and even boring at times. Morel's eye for action does a fair bit to try and alleviate the situation, and some of the gun play is explosive enough to distract from the plot's failings, but all involved deserve better.

The Gunman is nothing exceptional, and in a market beginning to suffer from over-saturation of this genre, that's enough to consign it to failure. Perhaps it's time to hand the holsters over to a newer generation.





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