The Gunman (2015)
The Gunman (2015)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 55 min.

Release Date: March 20th, 2015 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Pierre Morel Actors: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Idris Elba, Peter Franzen, Rachel Lascar




he music swells, the dialogue hushes, and the editing quickens, all signifying urgency from approaching danger. And then it happens. Nothing. Well, not quite nothing, but certainly less payoff than what is deserved from such a promising setup. These kinds of scenarios play out all too frequently in “The Gunman,” offering the audience a lot of anticipation and suspense with almost no catharsis. Though advertised as an action film, director Pierre Morel’s latest effort works best during the calms before the storms, where the momentum slows and outcomes haven’t become quite so predictable just yet. While actor Sean Penn clearly wishes to adopt the hard-nosed tough-guy roles that Liam Neeson has embraced, “The Gunman” simply doesn’t offer the earnest pursuits or pulse-pounding revenge required to meet that standard.

After assassinating a high-profile target in the Democratic Republic of Congo, sniper Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is forced to flee the country and leave behind the love of his life, humanitarian aid worker Annie (Jasmine Trinca). After eight years pass, Jim believes his days of killing are long over. But when a hit squad attempts to murder him, he’s forced back into the game in an attempt to root out those responsible. Traveling to London, Barcelona, and more, Terrier must contact old allies and enemies alike in order to uncover a conspiracy that will reunite him with Annie and pit the duo against corrupt businessmen, skilled hunters, faceless powers, and a determined Interpol agent (Idris Elba).

Embellishment with humanitarian issues can’t alter “The Gunman’s” irreparably bland premise. Nearly every aspect of the project is utterly generic (as is the unfortunately appropriate, unbelievably boring title). The introduction shows an overly happy, unsuspecting couple receiving jealous glances from a third wheel, who then goes out of his way to separate them and make his move. Quite expectedly, time passes, grudges are held, desperate explanations are offered, characters succumb to forgotten passions, betrayals are hatched, evil deeds attract the attention of assassins, and the past catches up with the many rueful contract killers. The villains are painfully obvious, the double-crosses entirely predictable, and the action sequences somehow lacking in suspense. It’s as if Morel (“Taken,” “District B13,” “From Paris with Love”) was attempting to make the most stereotypical, uneventful, by-the-numbers actioner ever conceived – and succeeded.

“I need to find out who wants me dead.” One of the major components that hurts the picture is Sean Penn, who possesses no personality or charisma. He goes through the motions of being an action hero, but never seems comfortable in the role. He’s certainly no Liam Neeson (which is, quite obviously, what Penn was aiming for). And “The Gunman,” with a slower pacing along the lines of “The American,” pressingly needs a star who can support an entire movie alone. As a result, the romance is forgettable, the motives are dull, and the shootouts devoid of genuineness; Terrier is never really in danger. Meanwhile, the plot itself features a sloppy hostage scenario, a sloppy negotiation, a sloppy handoff, and an even sloppier climax. It all leads to one of the most uninspired endings of any production, confirming the rumor that “The Gunman” is merely a vanity piece for Penn, who was hoping to jumpstart – or reinvent – his career as an action heavy.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10