The Gunman – a film review by Gary Chew
The Gunman, a vehicle for Sean Penn going full-bore macho, is a new action movie somewhat like a blue collar 007 picture … but with more “testicularity.” Instead of that term, on the after-the-screening comment card for the studio rep, what I scribbled was “balls.”
If you think Sean Penn can’t do “testosteronic” movies as well as Mark Wahlbert, Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson put together, better reboot your sense of cinema. And Penn has two Oscars.
But Penn, who was also one of the producers of this Pierre Morel movie, gets in a few licks being a rather regular guy named Jim doing humanitarian work in the Congo while covertly acting as a sniper on the side. The Gunman begins as if it could be a response to American Sniper — no such luck.
In a few years, Jim has dues to pay for his sniping out the Congo’s Minister of Mining: Jim must break away from the woman he loves, the innocent Annie — played by Italian beauty, Jasmine Trinca. This allows Jim’s nemesis for Annie’s favors — Felix (Javier Bardem) — to make a move. Turns out, Felix becomes Annie’s husband. Bardem’s haircut is reminiscent of the one he had in No Country For Old Men, but a less creepy style. Felix is one of the bad guys in Gunman, but not so much as spooky Anton Chigurh was way down in South Texas.
As Gunman moves on, it also turns out that Jim is a kind of bad guy too, but with quite a cumbersome conscience he must endure along with his PTSD. Only shades of American Sniper.
As the “several-years-later” begins, some men show up at the humanitarian site where Jim is working; also where Annie is a surgeon. These guys try to kill Jim and cause him to flash back to the deed he did taking-out the mining minister. He knows unknown faces, somewhere, want him not to be around to remember and talk about what happened back then. Missions along with meanings do change.
Finding out takes Jim back to old assassination buddies as well as Annie. (Surely not an unfamiliar narrative.) It’s not difficult to sort out which characters in the scenario are most likely to be the primary culprit. One reconnection is a positive one for him: Stanley, played by a favorite heavy of mine, Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast). Stanley helps as Jim goes into hiding and needs transportation to get the drop on his adversaries. The film is shot in London, Barcelona and Cape Town.
The grand finale draw down is … How do I say it (?) … sort of full of B.S. It occurs during a crowded bull fight in Barcelona. No bull. I noticed in the closing credits that the City of Barcelona credits itself for having nada bull fights there since 2011. Nothing like contrition and redemption.
Jim allows for a few minutes’ monologue in a well-delivered confession to Annie following serious fisticuffs and letting of blood.
Idris Elba, who played the title role in Mandella has prominent billing for The Gunman. He’s really a cool looking, well-centered actor. But you shouldn’t blink much while he’s on screen. You might miss him.
As Sean Penn nears 55, he still has lots of “Jeff Spicoli” left in him. He parades it well and proudly. I think he works out. Eat your heart out, Wahlberg.
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