Review: An Aura Of Deja Vu Around THE GRAY MAN

The Gray ManNetflix’s The Gray Man opens in theaters this Friday, July 15th and will appear on the streaming service next week on Friday July 22.

Most people are starting to become aware that Netflix original movies fall into two categories. The first, are the ones with Prestige directors that the streaming service hopes will be big contenders at awards season. The others are the films that Netflix makes based on the algorithms that study its subscriber bases viewing habits. These are films that are not passion projects of filmmakers or storytellers so much as factory-designed pieces of entertainment that at least mathematically should appeal to the masses, regardless of quality.

The Gray Man, getting a week long theatrical run before appearing on Netflix’s streaming service next week, definitely falls into the later category. Not so much a fun spy story as it is a checklist of characters and incidences for directors Anthony and Joe Russo to check off while still trying to inject enough visual gusto to keep the audience distracted enough to not notice the derivative nature of the whole enterprise.

Taken from prison and trained to be an elite, and very deniable, CIA assassin Six (Ryan Gosling) discovers that new leadership within the Agency is decommissioning the program he is a part of with extreme prejudice. When another member of the program gives Six some incriminating evidence about the new CIA leadership before dying, he finds himself on the run across Europe, trying to dodge the psychotic military contractor (Chris Eavns) hired to stop him in a series of action sequences of escalating property damages, and most likely sparking a few international incidents along the way.

As you can see, not much more than a melange of story elements. Exotic foreign locales. The sassy kid. Shadowy government conspiracies. A somewhat overly drawn antagonist. More than a little bit of influence from the Jason Bourne films of the aughts. It’s a number of the same ingredients that we’ve tasted before thrown into yet another cinematic mulligan stew that the Russo’s make palatable, but not necessarily memorable or essential.

To be fair, Evans as the nominal villain that Gosling’s Six butts heads with seems to be having a lot of fun, so much so that it sometimes appears as if he is in a completely different movie. And while the majority of the film’s action sequences rush to pile complication upon tiring complication on to the hero, the one set piece involving a fight aboard a military cargo plane that is falling apart mid-flight is fairly exhilarating and worth seeing in a theater as opposed to a home system.

The Russos keep their camera moving but even that attempt to inject visual energy ultimately just proves tiring. When the film hits a point that feels like a good end point but actually is revealed to be the transition into a whole other elongated, final sequence, it is hard not to release an exasperated sigh.

The Gray Man - Ryan Gosling
Image via Netflix
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About Rich Drees 7221 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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