Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, Netflix’s The Gray Man is based on mark Greaney’s 2009 novel of the same name. An action thriller with an impressive and tight ensemble cast, The Gray Man is a veritable who’s-who of the decade’s biggest action stars. With Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans starring alongside Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, and Dhanush, The Gray Man boasts a cast of talented actors and action stars.
After a time stuck in development hell, The Gray Man finally landed at Netflix with the Russos attached to direct. Made on a staggering budget of $200 million, The Gray Man is one of the most expensive films made by Netflix. It was released on July 22, 2022, and is available to stream on the platform.
The Gray Man‘s first scene briefly establishes the nature of Six’s (Ryan Gosling) work, and how he was recruited into the Sierra program – a CIA operation in which convicted criminals are stripped of their identities in order to work covert operations. The Gray Man then launches quickly into its action, detailing Six’s final job for Sierra, which concerns sensitive information about corruption within the agency. This predictably leads to Six betraying the agency and prompts a global manhunt for the highly-trained assassin.
The Gray Man Is A Predicatable & Generic Acton Thriller
In this, and in many other aspects, The Gray Man simply doesn’t push the envelope. It’s pretty bang-average with regard to story – almost every development is as predictable as possible, and there’s never any question as to the morality of Six’s work. This is neatly (and somewhat lazily) achieved by the villain, Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), being outright evil. In fact, Hansen is practically a caricature of the average action movie villain – he’s driven primarily by his sadistic nature and doesn’t care about collateral damage or morals. This allows for Gosling’s character to seem like a genuine hero without ever actually engaging in any heroics, which is particularly convenient.
Even so, The Gray Man does features excellent performances. Chris Evans shines in practically every way, giving off the vibe of a man gleeful acting as unpleasant as humanly possible. In addition, Billy Bob Thornton gives a solid dramatic performance, and Ana de Armas and Gosling both contribute to a number of impressively choreographed action scenes.
Though The Gray Man‘s action is good, it’s not groundbreaking. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same sort of action as can be seen in any other action or spy thriller – it’s insanely fast-paced and thoroughly devoid of any logic. Seeing human characters be repeatedly shot, stabbed, and punched (not to mention narrowly avoiding multiple close-range explosions) and continue to fight on is utterly ludicrous. Though this action-movie trespass can often be forgiven, The Gray Man is so relentlessly paced that it seems Six is dealt a near-fatal injury every few minutes, each time making the film feel even more ridiculous than it already seemed.
Though there are certainly positive elements to The Gray Man, it’s just not a particularly enjoyable film. Ryan Gosling’s talents are wasted on the two-dimensional Six, and other talented actors, such as Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, and Regé-Jean Page, simply aren’t given enough screen time to properly shine. Between this and the film’s relentless pacing, The Gray Man is a generally disappointing watch.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have potential. Six has the makings of an interesting character, and Gosling may just be the perfect man for the job, but The Gray Man doesn’t capitalize on that promise. There’s certainly reason to believe that The Gray Man could spawn an enjoyable franchise, but it doesn’t set an overly enticing foundation, which may well be a huge problem for the intended sequels. By delivering a thoroughly generic action thriller, the Russos may have already sealed The Gray Man‘s fate.
Summary: An underwhelmingly average story is bolstered by a handful of solid action performances, but ultimately, The Gray Man just isn’t particularly enjoyable.
Highlights: Chris Evan’s unhinged performance serves as a reminder of his exceptional range as an actor, and his role as Lloyd Hansen is one of The Gray Man‘s best components.