After watching The Gray Man, I was left wondering: Were the Marvel Cinematic Universe films (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame) that were directed by the Russo brothers good because of the Russo brothers or because of the tight creative control of Disney, Marvel and Kevin Feige?
Tell me if you have heard The Gray Man’s plot before: Globetrotting action movie in which the CIA hires assassins to kill an asset that has information that could burn corrupt CIA officials.
After a mission gone wrong, a CIA operative whose existence is so secret that he is only known by a number, Six (Ryan Gosling) is being hunted by a psychopathic ex-CIA operative, Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans). Six eventually pairs up with his old partner, Miranda (Ana de Armas) and they work together to unravel a conspiracy of corruption. It is all rather pedestrian and done better in other movies. Frankly, I was expecting a cameo by Matt Damon.
Ryan Gosling is playing a version of K, the character he played in Bladerunner 2049. A muted robotic performance that is the underlying problem of Six. Six is a character completely void of charisma and is blank-faced and nearly emotionless. While the filmmakers and Netflix are clearly trying to create a James Bond or Jason Bourne franchise, it is not going to work with such a bland character.
Chris Evans seems to be having a great time playing the villain and it shows on screen. His tongue is planted firmly in cheek while sporting a porn stache and chewing through scenery like he’s a hungry man at a buffet, Evans exudes all the character and charisma that Gosling is missing. Evans makes this a better film because of his performance.
Ana de Armas’ considerable talents are wasted on playing the boring twin of her character from No Time To Die. Regé-Jean Page is great as a douchebag. Jessica Henwick is suitably awesome as an oft unappreciated CIA operative whose level-headed advice continues to be ignored.
The Gray Man announces each location change with the standard Russo brothers’ large letter location cards, just as they were employed by the Russo brothers in their MCU films. Yet, with so many locations, this movie feels rather small and confined because the Russo brothers never spend enough time in and around a location for it to feel special. The constant hopping from place to place leaves each location feeling like a backlot that is dressed up in editing with some b-roll footage.
The script by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely has a certain layer of cheese added to the faux-prestige pretentiousness. There is a not very subtle reference to Six being like Sisyphus. There are lines like “Double Oh Seven was taken.” (Yes, yes it was by a much better character.) The dialogue was sometimes quick fire, but more often than not, the exposition was quite boring.
There are sequences in which it looks as if the Russo brothers had gotten drones for Christmas just like Michael Bay did right before he shot Ambulance. I don’t have problems with drone footage in movies as long as they are used correctly and not distracting. In The Gray Man there are some shots using drones that completely removed me from the movie because the shots are excessive in the way they screamed: “Hey look! This was shot using a drone.” The use of drones in The Gray Man left the movie feeling a bit amateurish as they do not match the faux-prestige tone that the movie is obviously trying to aim for. I hate to say this, but Michael Bay was more restrained with his usage of drones than the Russo brothers.
The Gray Man has some action scenes that are creative and some that are genuinely thrilling. Unfortunately, the action scenes are all tied together with mediocre, derivative and bare narrative.
Netflix spent a lot of money on The Gray Man (in the ballpark of $200 million), the Russo brothers spent all of that money, yet the end result does not feel like a $200 million movie. The Gray Man is a mildly entertaining action movie that tries to punch above its weight with a threadbare predictable and derivative storyline that ends up hamstringing the movie.
The Gray Man is an inferior attempt at replicating Bond and Bourne films that fails because of a bland central character who is as forgettable as his number. Is The Gray Man worth watching? Only if there’s nothing else to watch – and in this day and age of streaming, there’s always plenty of other stuff to watch.
To answer the opening question: The MCU movies that Russo brothers were great because of the tight creative control that Disney, Marvel and Kevin Feige exerted, not because of the Russo brothers.
Watched at home, streamed on Netflix.
I wondered how the Evans character got to be in the position of where he’s at and continued to have a job with the reckless way in he conducts his business.
Nice cameo Russo bro.