“The Gray Man” is directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree, Avengers: Endgame) and stars Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049, First Man), Chris Evans (Avengers: Endgame, Knives Out) Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049, Knives Out), Jessica Henwick (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Matrix Resurrections), Regé-Jean Page (For the People, Bridgerton), Wagner Moura (Elysium, Narcos), Julia Butters (American Housewife, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Dhanush (3, Vada Chennai), Alfre Woodard (Desperate Housewives, St. Elsewhere), and Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Goliath). Based on a 2009 Mark Greaney book of the same name, this film is about a man who goes by the name of Six. Years after Six is let out of prison under the condition that he works for the CIA, he uncovers dark secrets. This results in a former colleague putting a bounty on his head and an international manhunt.
“The Gray Man” is the latest film from the Russo Brothers, These two are in-house Marvel directors known for their work on the latest “Captain America” and “Avengers” titles. In addition to Joe Russo’s respective screenplay credit, the film also happens to be written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. These two have handled writing duties for tons of Marvel fare including “Thor: The Dark World,” “Agent Carter,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and the “Captain America” trilogy. It is nice to see these two join forces to write one of the most expensive Netflix movies ever made. It feels weird to say that in a circumstance like this because when I think Netflix, I think of television, and I think of movies that are more likely to be seen on the smaller screen. But this film is not cheap, as it did cost $200 million to make. This is $50 million less than “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Disney and Marvel’s latest blockbuster movie to hit the big screen. This leads me to my first compliment. As weird as it is to confirm, I think “The Gray Man” looks better visually than “Thor: Love and Thunder” does at times.
But believe it or not, Netflix has put out a decent amount of big budget movies over recent years. Some have been good, like “The Irishman.” Some have been bad, like “Red Notice.” I’ll get straight to the point. “The Gray Man” is in between.
I went to go see “The Gray Man” in a movie theatre. The best thing I can say about “The Gray Man” is that it uses every bit of its big budget wisely to deliver one of the best-looking films of the year. There is a scene where people are ringing in the new year that totally popped. Despite having some occasional vivid and eye-dilating images, it is all given within a script that tends to rely on clichés.
“The Gray Man” is a marketable film for sure. Big action, big stars, and for some, it comes with the perk that you can pause and go to the bathroom without missing anything. I was sold with the campaign because the stars of the film are bankable. I dig Ryan Gosling, I love Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas may be on track to be one of the greatest thespians of her generation. It should not surprise me that this trio has solid chemistry all around. Because De Armas worked with both of these actors in the past. Therefore, not only are we getting a reunion behind the camera between the directors and writers, but in front of the camera as well with the leads.
Essentially, “The Gray Man” is this year’s “Red Notice,” because it is another action film that has notable clichés and a globe-trotting plot. Both even star a sexy Canadian Ryan! But the difference between “The Gray Man” and “Red Notice” is that I would rather watch “The Gray Man” a second time. …Barely. “The Gray Man” is “Red Notice,” except in this case, “The Gray Man” does more than get big names. They utilize those big names to greater potential.
Ryan Gosling is well-directed by the Russos and happens to be given plenty to do in the film to make it as watchable as it can be. But his character of Six does not have much dimension to him. He feels like a less suave, perhaps less emotional Ethan Hunt. Gosling is a great actor who has done a fantastic series of roles in recent years in movies like “La La Land” and “Blade Runner 2049.” He has a knack for picking well-developed, enchanting, defining scripts. What got him into this movie? Who knows? Everyone probably needs a paycheck every now and then. When it comes to Gosling’s library, this is probably on the same level of quality as the kind of forgettable “Gangster Squad.”
The scene stealer award in this case goes to Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen. Chris Evans gives one of my favorite performances in a recent action film. He continues to demonstrate his range as a performer. He not only can vary up his performance style, but do it well. Whether it means being patriotic and kind-hearted as Steve Rogers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or a complete moron as Ransom Drysdale in “Knives Out.” Here, he unsurprisingly channels more of the latter’s traits. Out of everyone in the film, Evans brings an energy to his performance that every other actor can only hope to evoke out of their own.
Even though I say there are clichés, it does not mean that there is no entertainment to be had in the movie whatsoever. As I have said in the past, clichés can be good if they are done effectively. Why do you think the “hero’s journey” structure gets repeated time and time again? In this story of familiar happenings, there is a slight glimmer of fun or emotional weight here and there. One of the best story elements of the film is between Ryan Gosling’s character, Six, and a kid played by the young and talented Julia Butters, Claire. Not only do both actors play off each other brilliantly, but they are given some of the film’s best exchanges of dialogue. By the end of the film, Claire became one of my favorite characters and her story wrapped up satisfyingly.
Also, random fact I found out as I was doing this review. Apparently this film was in development hell for years. The earliest this project was announced happens to be 2011, with James Gray once set to direct. Between swapped actors, swapped studios, and so on, the project never found its footing until now. Was it worth the wait? Hard to tell. It’s a cliché film with familiar storylines, so it does not add much to the table. Although it could get some watches on both big and small screens for now. As for how well it will age, that is for the audience to decide.
In the end, “The Gray Man” is in a word, fine. The star-studded cast got me in the door. Not only are they capable of bringing charisma, but delivering on talent. They do their best with the ordinary writing. Ryan Gosling delivers the goods in the acting department, but I will not remember his character as much as say K in “Blade Runner 2049.” I would love to see Ana de Armas in more thrillers and action fare as I think she has done a good job not only in this film, but also “No Time to Die.” She is attractive, joy-inducing, and skilled at her craft. She is everything you can want in an actress. Chris Evans continues to show his range as a performer, but if I had to rank his filmography for the year, I would prefer “Lightyear.” It is a completely different movie for another audience perhaps, but if you want to know which movie does a better job at accomplishing its goals, “Lightyear” is that movie. “The Gray Man” is fun to look at, but does not deliver much that is new. I am going to give “The Gray Man” a 5/10.
“The Gray Man” is now playing in select theaters and is available on Netflix to all subscribers.
Thanks for reading this review! If you like this review, why not check out some of my other ones? If you are in the Netflix mood, check out my review for another recent Netflix movie, “Hustle!” Want something more recent? Feel free to take a glance at my thoughts on Scott Derrickson’s new horror film, “The Black Phone!” Also, be on the lookout for my thoughts on “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” and “Nope!” If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Gray Man?” What did you think about it? Or, if you could put three actors in one action movie together, who would they be and why? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!