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Ryan Gosling & Chris Evans are toe-to-toe in the enjoyable The Gray Man
Following a dabble in drama with last year’s Cherry acclaimed directors, The Russo Brothers return to the action genre with The Gray Man from Netflix. An adaptation of Mark Greaney’s same-titled novel, the script for the film hails from Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely. The Gray Man is CIA operative Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling), a.k.a. Sierra Six. Years ago, he was plucked from a federal penitentiary and recruited by his handler, Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), to become the CIA’s most skilled operative, whose true identity is known to no one.
Six is now a highly-skilled, agency-sanctioned merchant of death who has accidentally uncovered dark agency secrets. With the tables now turned, Six is the target being hunted across the globe by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a former cohort at the CIA, who will stop at nothing to take him out. Thankfully, Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) has Six’s back because he will need all the help he can get.
I first remember hearing about The Gray Man over a decade ago with Brad Pitt starring for director James Gray. Unfortunately, the film was stuck in development hell until The Russo Brothers came aboard in 2020. With a budget of $200 million, The Gray Man is the most expensive Netflix original movie, tied in with Red Notice. Despite a star-studded cast, Red Notice was a prime example that bigger does not always mean better.
To my delight, though, The Gray Man avoids the pitfalls of Red Notice. Ryan Gosling has been away from movie screens since 2018, and stepping into an action franchise is the logical return. The moment we meet Six, Gosling brings his usual charisma to the role allowing us to take an instant liking to the character. Action fans do not have to wait long for Gosling to show off his athleticism.
The script sets up the plot early on, introducing us to character templates of shady government officials. However, the actors cast in the roles elevate the material. When Chris Evans steps on the scene, it is clear he is having a blast playing our primary antagonist. Granted, Evans showed his villain chops in 2019’s Knives Out, but Lloyd Hansen is a different kind of evil.
Evans has one-liners, a menacing smile, and like Gosling, sheer athleticism. Kudos to the directors and screenwriters for the delicate verbal cat and mouse game of wits that our stars engage in before their eventual fisticuffs. However, this is not just a boy’s club movie because Ana de Armas more than holds her own in the action scenes. I hope that Hollywood is paying attention. After this film and her brief moments in last year’s No Time to Die, it is time for Ana de Armas to headline an action franchise.
Regarding the action sequences in the film, The Russo Brothers spread them out sporadically throughout the film. However, when they arrive, they will have you smiling from ear to ear. Similar to their approach with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Russo’s bring a fundamental world approach to the sequences. That means we see Six take his share of hits instead of having plot armor for the film’s duration.
Regarding the supporting cast members, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, and Julia Butters all deliver solid work. At the same time, veterans Billy Bob Thornton and Alfre Woodard have not lost a step. As expected, some of the film’s dialogue comes off a bit dodgy. However, outside of that, I had no major gripes with the film.
With enjoyable performances from its cast, entertaining action sequences, and an engaging story, The Gray Man is highly recommended.
Final Grade: A-
The Gray Man opens in limited theaters today before arriving on Netflix next Friday, July 22nd.
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