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The Gunman - Movie Review

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The Gunman - Movie Review

2 stars

Suddenly, from the enveloping shroud of irrelevance busts Sean Penn onto the scene with what seems to be the latest path for any Hollywood leading man to rediscovered glory: an ass-whoopin’, guns-a-blazin’, globe-hoppin’ action flick a la Kevin Costner in 3 Days to Kill or Liam Neeson in Taken.

Appropriately enough, Penn’s The Gunman is directed by the same guy who rejuvenated Neeson’s career in Taken, Pierre Morel. But unfortunately, any thoughts we had of Penn’s presence perhaps signifying that this one may have a little meat on its bones are put to rest at the 90-minute mark. That’s the point at which the eye rolls begin as it sinks into genre formula and becomes just another stupid action movie. Penn won’t become the next member of the AARP set to fight and shoot his way back into relevance.

In The Gunman, Penn is Jim Terrier (he’s got tenacity, get it?), an ex-special forces guy who now digs fresh water wells in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) under the auspices of a neutral non-governmental organization (NGO). But we all know there is no such thing as “neutral” when it comes to international affairs, so it is no surprise when Jim is targeted by some very bad guys who want to kill him. Naturally, he escapes only to later discover that there is a bounty placed on his head. Credit must be given to Penn for completely disappearing in his role as Terrier. It can never be said that the guy doesn’t prepare for his roles. Here, he not only gets the moodiness of his character right but his well-cut physique convinces of his military past. He’s a definite badass with some mad fighting skills that are called for quite often.

Flash forward to London where Jim hooks up with old friend and former fellow special forces guy Stanley (a disheveled Ray Winstone) who reluctantly agrees to help Jim find out who is after him. Together, they suspect that the hit is somehow connected his old firm which, eight years ago, was involved in the execution of DRC’s Minister of Mining.

Flash forward again to Barcelona where Jim confronts Felix (Javier Barden), the one person he knows with a connection to his old firm. Now a successful Spanish businessman, Felix is not only suspect number one, but is also shacked up with Jim’s ex-lover Annie (Jasmine Trinca). Sadly, Trinca disappoints in her love interest role and is never able to work up a convincing chemistry with either of her lovers. She’s proven herself better than this, so lets chalk it up to Don McPherson’s script – poorly adapated from Jean-Patrick Manchette's novel The Prone Gunman – that never figures out how to incorporate a love thread into an action thriller.

Jim eventually learns from Felix that his old boss and former comrade, Cox (Mark Rylance) is the most likely person behind his death order. Cox is heading up a new business venture that could find its business dealings compromised if it were to ever get out that he was involved in the tragic events in DRC from eight years earlier.

The Gunman isn’t embarrassingly terrible, but those who can’t stomach Penn’s presence due to his unapologetically one-sided political views and actions won’t be convinced that he’s actually an asset to this film. The plot is engagingly complex but not overly-complicated, however the acting – save for the performances by Penn and Winstone – is limp and uninspired. McPherson couldn’t figure out a good way to end his story, so he takes it where any plot set in Spain should never go – into the bullfighting ring. Akin to kissing under the Eiffel Tower in a French love story, it’s just flat out too easy. The Gunman is about a half hour too long and at 120 minutes, it feels every bit of it.

The Gunman - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality
115 mins
: Pierre Morel
Don McPherson
Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Jasmine Trinca
: Action | Thriller
Armed with the truth
Memorable Movie Quote: "Just imagine putting a bunch of crazy musicians together and telling them to go have a good time together."
Official Site:
Release Date:
April 26, 2004
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 11, 2014
Synopsis: An adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette's "The Prone Gunman." Sean Penn stars as Jim Terrier, an international operative who is betrayed by the organization he worked for, and must go on the run in a relentless game of cat and mouse across Europe.

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