HomeMovies'The Gray Man' Review: Netflix’s Expensive Assassin Action-Comedy Hits Its Mark

‘The Gray Man’ Review: Netflix’s Expensive Assassin Action-Comedy Hits Its Mark

The Gray Man (2022). Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen.
Photo Credit Paul Abell/Netflix © 2022

With the Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas led film, The Gray Man, Netflix hopes to finally find their bankable action movie franchise. In it, the CIA recruits criminals and commutes their sentences in exchange for a lifelong commitment to their Sierra Program. Chosen for their skill set, lack of family, and plausible deniability, they become nameless assassins with limited morality—in theory. Gosling stars as Sierra Six, one of the last remaining holdovers of the now nearly obsolete program. He’s not like other assassins, he’s here to chew gum and kick-ass, and he can do both at the same time.

Much like the Marvel films that the Russo brothers are most known for, this one is pure entertainment. They take the prominent cast, and $200 million budget and produce exactly the kind of high-octane action sequences in exotic locations that you would expect. It’s the playfully clever dialogue and the nuance with which it’s delivered that makes it so fun, though.

The story itself is formulaic, like throwing Bourne Identity, Smokin’ Aces and any number of movies about a tough guy risking everything to save a little girl in a blender. The narrative exists solely to get Six from one expensive action set piece to the next, and that’s okay. After a target (Callan Mulvey) hands Six some damning information on CIA Group Chief Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), he walks away from the program and turns to its now retired former architect Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), for help. Fitzroy over time grew to be a father-figure to Six, a well-known fact that Carmichael exploits.

Chris Evans is having the time of his life as private sector assassin, Lloyd Hansen, sporting a “trash ‘stache” tight shirt and loafers. His charisma is as strong as your desire to punch him in the face, calling people “sunshine” and talking on the phone like he’s Ellis from Die Hard. He’s every bit as pompous as his Knives Out character, but now he’s a deadly assassin with unlimited resources.

He and Carmichael went to Harvard together, so it’s he who Carmichael trusts to retrieve the asset. Senior Officer Suzanne Brewer (Jessica Henwick) also attended with them, and is another culpable CIA member, but strongly disagrees with using Hansen, referring to him as a sociopath. He quickly lives up to that billing, deciding kidnapping Fitzroy’s niece (Julia Butters) would be the most effective way to get to Six.

It’s tough to discern if it’s more fun to watch Six “Macgyver” his way out of impossible situations, trading sarcastic back and forth with his reluctant CIA accomplice, Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas), or Lloyd just generally being obnoxious to everyone. It’s also great to see de Armas, who was one of the best parts of the most recent Bond film, get to effectively serve as Six’s equal here, repeatedly saving him and bruising his ego in the process.

In total, there are only two extremely chaotic, physics defying, can’t tell what’s happening sequences where the movie uses cinematographer Stephen F. Windon’s experience and goes full Fast Franchise. Expensive CGI can’t make sense of fights aboard crashing planes, trains, or automobiles, but these can be dismissed with a laugh, as they take up just a fraction of the 2-hour runtime. Outside of those, the rest of the action is delivered more succinctly.

Lloyd sends everyone, and Avik San (Dhanush) against Six and Dani, with an unrelenting hail of gunfire, explosions, and close contact fighting. The elaborate settings and heady lighting draw you in, and the playful dialogue and mannerisms of the characters, even in tense situations, enhances your enjoyment of it all. The quips exchanged, and the blended physical comedy are imaginative, timed well, and fit within the desired tone.

This is supposed to be fun escapism, so even though there are real stakes for the characters–often leaking blood like Tom Holland and Mark Ruffalo leak spoilers–they still know to have fun with it all. Are characters going to say something cool right before they sacrifice themselves for the greater good, absolutely. Are Evans and Gosling going to toss guns aside and try to kill each other like honorable men to decide who’s the best, of course.

It’s not a perfect script. There are a lot of recycled elements, and some choppiness to the way the story cycles between time periods to squeeze in some character development, but it’s the chemistry of the cast and the perfect melding of humor and unrelenting action that make The Gray Man so enjoyable. It can be a tough balancing act for some, but it’s just another Thursday for the Russo brothers.

The Gray Man is now streaming on Netflix.

Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.

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