A review of the new Netflix movie “The Gray Man”

This is a film adaptation of a best-selling novel of the same name by Mark Greaney and, since the book is the opening salvo of a (so far) 11-work series, we could well be seeing the start of a new spy film franchise to rival James Bond or Ethan Hunt or Jason Bourne.

The CIA assassin in question is gray – or grey as we write in British English – not because he is dull but because he operates in a grey zone. His actual name is Court Gentry (really) but he is better known as Sierra Six (as he explains, 007 was already taken). I’m a massive Ryan Gosling fan and we haven’t seen him in a movie for four years (“First Man”), so I’m pleased to find him in the eponymous role and to learn that he’s up for sequels. His good looks and laconic manner are perfect for the character.

It’s pleasing to see Billy Bob Thornton as Six’s vaguely honourable mentor and Ana de Armas as Six’s resourceful fellow spook, but the acting honours here go to Chris Evans who clearly had fun switching from being good guy Captain America to becoming Six’s intended nemesis the sociopathic Lloyd Hansen. Smaller roles include RegĂ©-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”) and Afre Woodard (“Clemency”). The locations are varied and exotic, the camerawork is swooping and swirling, and the cutting is frenetic in this fast-paced and stylish thriller.

You’ll perhaps know what to expect from “The Gray Man” when you know that it’s directed by the Russo brothers (Anthony and Joe) who helmed no less than four Marvel movies. In fact, even with this knowledge, be prepared for a mind-blowing level of action. The narrative is exceptionally thin – another case of a chase for sensitive data on a tiny device – with no twists or surprises or even a romance and there are only very short interludes between one explosive action sequence after another after another. Indeed there are nine-set pieces shoot-ups in a variety of foreign settings, most notably in Prague (my favourite foreign city).

“The Gray Man” is Netflix’s most expensive film so far at a reputed cost of some $200M, but I was determined to see it on the big screen before no doubt I view it again on television. For sheer entertainment, this is hard to beat. Just don’t expect any subtlety or sophistication.


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