There are so many things wrong with Pierre Morel’s The Gunman that it’s a large target for critical dissection. Perhaps, the most telling issue of the jumbled mess on-screen is the co-writer credit for star Sean Penn. No doubt, Penn has made been in front of and behind the camera in some of the most powerful films of the last 35 years. Here, the OSCAR winner is mining Liam Neeson territory with a director that could have used a good coaching by Paul Greengrass before setting out to tell this tale of foreign corporate corruption and international covert warfare.
Nearly a decade after fleeing the Congo following a successful assassination of that country’s minister of mining, former marksman Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is back on the continent. Now, suffering from PTSD and digging wells to atone for his violent past, Terrier is far removed from the government assassin that he once was. After an attempt is made on his life, Terrier escapes to London to find out who has put a contract out on his life — and why. Terrier’s investigation reunites him with Annie (Jasmine Trinca), a woman he once loved, who is now married to his former rival, a businessman (Javier Bardem) with shady dealings in Africa.
This movie wants to have it both ways. It has the same basic intentions of the average Expendables flick, but pretends to have some moral superiority. Whatever statement the original material was presenting has been lost in translation from page to screen. The leftovers feel like recycled bits from most other action-thrillers. Penn’s bulging physique aside there is little to see and less to take away from The Gunman.
Director: Pierre Morel
Stars: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba