Reviews | Written by Paul Mount 25/07/2022

THE GRAY MAN

The Gray Man, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and based on a novel by Mark Greaney, boasts an eye-watering $200m budget and was clearly designed to be seen on the biggest, loudest possible cinema screen. Yet it finds itself on Netflix (with a very limited theatrical run), which is fair enough as it’s a Netflix production but it’s hard to imagine not only how it can hope to recoup its budget (with Netflix lately admitting that they’ve lost over a million subscribers in the last few months) and, more importantly, how it can hope to become the new action movie franchise it’s clearly intended to be. It’s a puzzle, for sure, but that’s something for Netflix’s bean-counters to ponder. In the meantime, we can just sit back and revel in a big, brash, unsubtle summer blockbuster that leaves James Bond in the dust and is hot on the heels of Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt and co.

The Gray Man isn’t big or clever but it’s huge fun. Ryan Gosling takes on an uncharacteristic action movie role as a convicted murderer freed from prison on the condition that he works for the CIA as an undercover assassin. He takes on the codename Sierra Six – or Six for short (“007 was taken”). Months later we’re in Bangkok where Six is tasked with assassinating a target suspected of selling off security secrets but in doing so he’s informed that his target actually worked under the name Sierra Four and has information on an encrypted drive (of course!) that details the corrupt activities of CIA high-up Danny Carmichael (Bridgerton heart-throb Rege-Jean Page.) When Carmichael realises that Six is in possession of the evidence that will expose him, he dispatches psychopathic former CIA agent Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans in a comfy summer T-shirt, sporting a magnificent and mesmerising moustache) and the stage is set for a string of magnificently choreographed, globe-trotting action sequences – Prague is virtually demolished – as Hansen dispatches his disposable troops in hot pursuit of Six and fellow agent Dania Miranda (Ana de Armas).

That’s pretty much it for the plot really; it’s bog standard mind-off espionage stuff with Six protecting a handy Mcguffin that Carmichael and, especially, Hansen, will stop at nothing to retrieve. But we’re not here for a finely-tooled, thought-provoking plot – we’re here for gun battles, car chases, punch-ups and the odd wisecrack. Gosling is a pleasingly deadpan hero, short on words but handy with his fists and a pistol. Chris Evans is clearly having great fun as the obsessive Hansen, a lunatic so determined to get his man that he’s even able to hold his own in a ferocious fountain fist fight with half his hand shot off. Classy. Ana de Armas, who made a real impact in the last Bond outing No Time To Die, struggles to make her mark here but she offers solid, breathless support to Six as he systematically demolishes most of Europe dodging mercenaries, missiles and machine guns.

The Gray Man is absolute nonsense and there’s really nothing wrong with that. The Russos have long since proven that they know their way around a good action sequence and they deliver the goods time and again in this likeable, muscular, high-octane thriller that you’ll remember for its chaos and carnage rather more than its generic serves-its-purpose storyline.

The Gray Man is streaming now on Netflix - watch our interview with the directors here.