This action thriller directed by the Russo Brothers was released last year and distributed by Netflix. While starring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans and Ana De Armas seemed to guarantee positive reviews, The Gray Man’s reception was lukewarm at best.
Despite the cast’s best efforts, this story of a CIA operative (Ryan Gosling) who discovers inconvenient secrets about his agency and is subsequently hunted down by hitmen seemed too cliché for some critics. The film isn’t the most original action flick, but I found its reception a little harsh: The Gray Man knows what audiences want to see, and gives us just that, making it an ultimate action movie. Here are five good reasons to watch it:
1) Chris Evans’ sadistic villain
You know how it goes: a good action flick needs a good villain, and The Gray Man offers us Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen. This former CIA agent now works as an assassin, and fully enjoys his role as sadistic torturer and killer – even happily gunning down his own men when they dare question his orders and authority. The Harvard-educated Hansen is absolutely brutal, and few recent villains are as gleefully sadistic. His introductory scene sets the tone: the man is “creatively” torturing a victim using a car battery. Hansen does not get any kinder throughout the film, and his brutality is appreciable in an era where more and more villains have a tragic backstory or some form of excuse for their misdeeds. I sometimes miss the bad guys who are pure, unabashed evil, and Lloyd Hansen is definitely one of those. Of course, it is Chris Evans’ gleeful performance which sells it, and watching an evil version of Captain America threaten to kill children is truly a sight to behold.
2) Ana de Armas plays (another) cool spy
This will come as no surprise to Bond fans – and anyone who has seen No Time to Die – but having Ana De Armas play a spy in your action movie is a huge asset. She once again portrays a memorable character: here, De Armas is Dani Miranda, a Berlin-based spy with a taste for cool suits and an unbreakable spirit. The strong-willed operative is the first to support Ryan Gosling’s hero, and proves ready to put her career – and life – on the line to help the rogue agent. Shortly after being one of No Time to Die’s best parts, Ana De Armas is masterfully playing a spy once again: Dani is nothing short of a badass, and seeing her team up with Ryan Gosling in a hospital fight against Indian star Dhanush is an absolute delight. You can also count on Ana De Armas to bring a refreshing touch of humour to her secret agents. The headstrong Miranda, who doesn’t appreciate being handed an empty gun, is not exception!
3) Entertaining fight scenes
The film’s fight scenes deliver: their choreographies are fluid and fairly brutal – the perfect combo – and Gosling sells it as a rogue operative ready to do anything to survive. Most of the fights are deliberately over-the-top, and make good use of smoke effects. They feature various weapons – though you will see a lot of guns – and The Gray Man’s protagonists also have a knack for fighting in the most improbable settings. On top of the aforementioned hospital brawl, other highlights include seeing Gosling take out an entire team of assassins on a burning plane, fighting his way out of a moving tram and coming face-to-face with Lloyd Hansen in a fountain. The Russo Brothers have fun shooting these fight scenes and do it pretty well – forget the shaky cams of the early 2010s, the film lets us enjoy the combat moves, and apart from a few chopped up shots during the tram sequence, the editing does these brawls justice.
4) A real fast pace
A common criticism made to The Gray Man is that the film focuses too much on the combat scenes, and spends more time filming gunfights than setting up an actual story. While it is true that the plot isn’t groundbreaking (more on that below), the movie is generous with its action sequences, and this is a huge gift for fans of the genre. Its pace is resolutely fast, and the directors want to show us as many brawls as possible in two hours. If you are tired of waiting 45 minutes to get a mediocre, slow-paced fight, The Gray Man provides the perfect remedy!
5) It is the perfect film for a drinking game
The Gray Man is filled to the brim with spy movie clichés. Yes, this means that its plot is not the most original, and did put off those who expected a stronger, less generic story. But if you are an action fan (after all, this is the UAMC) you can have fun counting the tropes of the genre. From the witty child who gets kidnapped by the main villain to the countless corrupt heads of the CIA, there are so many clichés that an actual drinking game could land you in hospital (while in there, watch out for Dhanush’s assassin!). The Gray Man does follow a “classic spy thriller” recipe. This is both a blessing and a curse: the movie is nothing revolutionary, but it is definitely entertaining. A sequel is in the works, which will hopefully offer a more original story. In the meantime, you can definitely give this ultimate action film a watch!