Cinematic Releases: The Gunman Reviewed

sean penn
This weekend, Sean Penn plays with guns.

"Sorry, folks. I just never age.
Don't hate me."
A totally ripped and sweaty Sean Penn stars in this week's action flick, The Gunman. Much like Liam Neeson with the Taken films, Penn tries to abandon his dramatic leanings and works towards recreating himself as an action star. If not for some poor calculation on the part of the screenwriter and some heavy missteps in the direction department, The Gunman would have been a surefire hit for a middle aged lead actor trying to reinvent himself as a hardcore action icon. Taking cues from the Bourne movies and numerous other modern gunplay flicks, The Gunman offers a great first act, a meandering second, and a third that rises to the occasion with hand to hand combat, a fair amount of bloodshed, and an invigorated Sean Penn once again proving he's not a one trick pony.

The first fifteen minutes has a shared thematic commonality with Blood Diamond and maintains a dirty, dingy feel that is captivating and distinct. From then on, the film rushes to jump from country to country as we're led through an onslaught of underdeveloped antagonists and confusing story points that never really add up. However, Pierre Morel (director of the original Taken) does succeed at creating an interesting character in Sean Penn's Terrier. Unlike most of the other stars that have tried a late career genre jump, Penn never uses one liners, stays true to form, and brings a sincere and calculated performance to the screen. If not for the strangely rendered mid-section of The Gunman, this product could have given Penn a new dynamic lease on life as a movie star.

"I'm looking for Republicans?
Are you one?"
The supporting cast features a dramatic wrecking crew of top level performers. Idris Elba, Javier Bardem, and Ray Winstone (looking like an unkempt vagrant) all give Penn the support he needs when the script begins to give way. Elba brings a suave seriousness to The Gunman while Bardem plays his typical sleaze and Winstone tows the line with another performance as the greasy sidekick. Even with this superb back up system, the second act is too romantic and doesn't hold true for what theater goers are looking for. The Gunman was marketed as a shoot 'em up, thrill based genre flick in the realm of Taken or The Bourne Identity. With some extreme rewrites, this thing could have been really good. Apparently, no one cared enough to do so.

If you're looking for beginning to end shooting or a two hour throat bashing excursion into the realm of Bourne, this is not it. There are highs that take The Gunman into some great territory and there are lows that abolish any sense of continuity. This is a mediocre effort on the part of a director that's trying to recreate some of his Taken cred and a solid attempt by Penn to try and crack a new type of role. Go in with low expectations and you just might enjoy this one......a little.