IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 115 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Jim Terrier is in the Congo, providing security while an airstrip is being built, but he’s also a hired assassin for a multinational mining company which is set on protecting their interests in the war torn country. He keeps his ‘other’ job from his girlfriend Annie, a ‘Doctors Without Borders’ volunteer with whom Jim’s friend and co-assassin Felix is in love, but after Jim has assassinated a minister, the killing triggers widespread chaos and death in an already inflamed Congo and an ashamed Jim disappears. Eight years later, Jim is working in the Congo as a UNICEF employee digging wells, but his past comes back to haunt him and he has to reconnect with Felix who is now married to Annie….
So we’ve had Liam Neeson in pretty much every film he’s made since Taken, we’ve had the Expendables, we’ve had Kevin Costner in 3 Days To Kill, so now it’s Sean Penn’s turn to do the ‘ageing action hero’ thing, in a film directed by Taken’s Pierre Morel no less. Funny how Penn hates guns and probably a whole load of other things this film exploits, though he’s credited with having a hand in the screenplay, and indeed there is a bit of commentary in there about the exploitation of countries for financial gains, and largely by the West. The sometimes surprisingly involved plot evokes memories of the globe trotting adventures of Bourne, and I have to say that Penn, whether this film raises the popularity of an actor who has never been much of a box office draw or not [judging by its weak box office performance, probably not], is terrific [if very Sylvester Stallone-like, not a bad thing in my book but possibly for many others] in the film, and has certainly had a good workout to boot. My wife said he was ruggedly good looking, and his weather beaten face, so obviously cinematic one feels it’s been largely wasted [but then this most excellent actor tends to be so choosy about his parts], is so appropriate for this particular character.
Not a whole lot of attention is paid to some of the details in the piece, such as Jim keeping a low profile during his investigation, fearing that any use of a credit card or phone while on the run will trigger unwanted attention, but when he’s hit with an extreme brain malady [a convenient plot device popping up choice moments], he goes straight to a hospital in London, where his name and medical records are widely accessible. Still, The Gunman certainly works as an action movie, its bloody and brutal shootouts and fights expertly staged by Morel who only occasionally goes in for a bit of shakycam, and avoiding the opportunity to go over the top. There seems to be a concerted attempt at the moment to make more films of this nature which aren’t constricted by a ‘PG-13’ or ‘12A’ rating, and it certainly makes this critic very happy. There’s a bit of an emotional element in there too, even if the actions of Annie don’t always make much sense, while the excellent supporting cast all seem to be enjoying themselves as well as helping to lend some measure of gravitas, though Ray Winstone just seems to have been employed so he can say the ‘f’ word a lot. Overall quite a compelling action thriller with a stronger human dimension than some.