Story: When CIA hitman Court Gentry ( Ryan Gosling ) operating under the code name ‘Sierra Six’, stumbles upon classified information that threatens to expose the murky business of the intelligence agency, he instantly becomes a liability. As their top asset goes rogue, the agency hires another assassin, Lloyd Hansen ( Chris Evans ) to take Six down. Who survives this globetrotting hunger game?
Review: As the title suggests, ‘Gray Man’ describes Gosling’s Six — a good guy with a criminal past. His deeds aren’t black or white. He is both right and wrong. He is pitted against out-and-out bad guy with comic undertones Lloyd. The battle between the good-bad guy and the bad guy rages when the bad guys in the CIA do bad things. In order to conceal the bad things, they resort to something worse. Read, use covert operations to settle personal scores. What unfolds is a fast and furious, excessive gunplay woven cat and mouse game between the good looking dude in tight pants (Evans) and the good looking dude in a tracksuit (Gosling). Mind you, tracksuit has ethics, tight pants has none. In a bid to outdo the other, the two men go on a rampage destroying everything that stands in their way.
The Russo Brothers (directors Anthony and Joe), widely known for their Marvel films are off the leash. Their heroes though still invincible, can now afford to cause collateral damage unlike the righteous superheroes that cannot harm a fly except for evil aliens. The duo clearly feels liberated and has decided to go as ‘grey’ as possible. Expect bombings, some more bombings, gunplay, fistfights, over the top chase sequences et cetera. They seem to be particularly obsessed with asset retrieval-kind mercenary themes. Their previous Netflix film, ‘Extraction’ starring Chris Hemsworth and Randeep Hooda also had a hitman saving a kidnapped child while being chased around.
They raise the stakes here by taking this ‘grey vs evil’ fight global. Though entertaining and even scarcely humorous, their action thrillers outside the superhero space feel a tad juvenile with little desire to build interesting characters. The focus is solely to bombard the viewer with back-to-back action set pieces. A spectacular tram sequence does get you on the edge of your seat and is the film’s finest action scene. But after a while, the wafer-thin characters and them running around the world in circles, trying to be funny, gets a bit tiring. The rivalry-bromance between Lloyd and Six, intended to be the highlight of the film, feels more silly than dangerous. Despite having two very popular and good actors on board, the writing doesn’t scratch the surface. Words like ethics, morals, values and corruption are casually thrown around without much emphasis on substance.
A moustached Chris Evans mouthing flirty lines for other men is a funny sight. He addresses Gosling as ‘Ken Doll, cute, cupcake’ and refers to Dhanush as ‘my sexy Tamil friend’. He works more as a comic relief than a psychopath on the loose. Dhanush is intense and stands out in a significant action sequence. His is a short but solid guest appearance. Killing Machine Ryan Gosling’s steely gaze and sarcasm are a perfect ten. The film however, like his character is a Six. The Gray Man is Mission Impossible meets Bourne series minus their outstanding soundtrack and swag. If you don’t mind a mechanical action thriller though, you could enjoy this one. While Netflix has poured a lot of money into it, a theatrical release would have been ideal for this film, given its scale, pace and genre.