Posted March 16, 2015 by editor in Film Reviews

The Gunman Review


Sean Penn teams up with director Pierre Morel (Taken) for this lengthy pot-boiler which sees Penn’s marksman come out of a self-induced purgatory for past deeds done to track down the man who is responsible for taking a hit out on his life.

A fair amount of trotting around Europe and some personal calls in with some old associates and suddenly he’s on the run with an old flame, with no end to the amount of armed men coming at them.

The Gunman at times tries to get political, and often succeeds in creating tense drama between characters – but at its heart it does have trouble hiding the fact that it’s basically an offspring of the eurotrash thriller with big names attached.

Penn it has to be said suits the action role very well. Other actors of age are trying their hand at this sort of material later in their acting game. Penn, for one, has made sure that he is toned perfectly for the role.

It’s a nice change of pace for his career, but it’s also a thriller that really takes its time doing what it needs to do. There are various pit-stops the character has to make in order to confront his past. And marking each of these pit stops are a variety of supporting actors. Ray Winstone walks the line we are all familiar with as a reliable source. Mark Rylance pops in as a former comrade in arms with a gargled voice that a latter-day David Hemmings could only be proud off. But beating everyone hands down is Javier Barden in another slightly over the top role – and one that he didn’t need a silly wig for. Vying for the affections of the same women, Barden shows his hand clearly to the audience in a variety of movies and gestures – each one representing dollar bills of the audiences well spent money.

Less effective perhaps is Idris Elba: Not because he is poor, but simply because he shows up way too late in the game and has very little to do. It’s curious why he ended up in such a small role as there is only one scene that he has worthy dialogue in. But ¾ of the way into a film makes you more of a distraction than anything for a name actor.

Also on the naughty step is actress Jasmine Trinica who is way out of her league when it comes to being paired with Penn. When the drama is required to get heavy and of a certain volume, her skills are but very limited and often titter inducing.

The Gunman does threaten to outstay its welcome at almost 2 hours. This should have (like with the director’s Taken film) been a 90 minute affair with a hotter pace. Often some of the action is telegraphed long before it has happened. A scene involving a bull is stretched out far too long for it ever to be truly satisfying. This could have easily have been improved with a little trimming.

But there is still some worth here – especially in Penn’s lead performance. He may by all standards be slumming it here, but he (as always) has come prepared. And for a man his age to be hitting the gym and the weights to get this end result – is worth anyone’s attention.

Steven Hurst