Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Gunman

Muscles, Mayhem & Murder
Directed by: Pierre Morel

Cast: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, Peter Franzen

Review by James Colt Harrison

According to reports, Sean Penn insists he is not becoming another Liam Neeson and switching over to hard-core action films as opposed to starring in heavy dramas. If this isn’t an action picture we don’t know what it can be called!

The title alone gives you a clue as to what may be expected in the content of the film. Penn is certainly not playing a West Hollywood interior decorator. Screenwriters Don Macpherson and Pete Travis adapted the novel The Prone Gunman by French writer Jean-Patrick Manchette and assigned the part of hired assassin Jim Terrier to Penn. It’s impossible to relate the plot of the movie without giving everything away as it is, as usual with these action films, convoluted and complicated and not a simple Disney-type theme.

Penn’s character Jim Terrier is sent to the Congo as part of an assassination team set up by international mining interests. When a local Minister of the Mines tears up all international mining contracts, he is targeted to get snuffed out and Penn’s character inherits the job. Terrier was a former bad guy who wants to go legit, a story as old as Methusela. Penn is believable as the tough guy—although he still has a likeability about him---but we know he has a nasty job to do and he does it with skill.

Penn has buffed up for the role and has the body of a 25 year-old and a world weary, wrinkled-as-a-prune face to go with it. Could he have had a body transplant? Never mind, we get to see plenty of skin in his token love scenes with pretty Jasmine Trinca, a medic with Doctors Without Borders and, in her case, Doctors Without Clothes. Rival Javier Bardem plays jealous Alex, the civil liaison for the foreign mining companies. One look at Bardem’s smoldering eyes and snorting nostrils and we know he is going to be the villain. The only thing he lacks is the twirling moustache.

Enter former cohorts in the assassination plot who are now living in Europe. Burly Ray Winstone is a pal of Terrier and can be counted on to protect him. Bless his heart, but Winstone’s accent is thicker than Congo mud and not one word of his is understandable. Mr. Cox (Mark Rylance) who was a member of the original assassination team, lives  a posh life in London. Why? You have to see the movie to figure it out. Actually, you don’t have to see the movie to figure it out.

We don’t get to know any of the characters very well enough to really care for them. So that leaves us a little uninvolved. However, the action, the evil characters that float in and out of the film (Idris Elba as an Interpol operative excels in a cameo), the beautiful scenery in London, Barcelona and Catalonia, and Penn’s innate charisma carry the film through an unsurprising climax. Despite all the flaws, we genuinely enjoyed the film, the exciting thrills, and Penn’s new turn as an action star---despite his protests.

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