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article imageReview: ‘The Gunman’ follows the beaten path rather than carve its own Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Mar 20, 2015 in Entertainment
‘The Gunman’ follows in the footsteps of most recent Liam Neeson movies in which a retired mercenary must fend off would-be assassins while trying to discover who is supplying the guns-for-hire.
“Someone is trying to kill me and I need to find out who it is.” This sentence generally leads to gunfights, bloodshed and a pile of bodies that includes at least one of the speaker’s associates. So it is with this subgenre of the action movie, which has its own conventions and list of recurring actors that includes Liam Neeson, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis and Matt Damon. The Gunman stars Sean Penn as its moving target and doesn’t venture far from the tried-and-true formula.
Jim Terrier (Penn) was working for a private security arm in the Congo in 2006 when he was recruited for a secret mission. After completing the job, he was forced to leave the country and his girlfriend, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), to avoid retaliation. Eight years later he returns to work with an NGO drilling wells for local villages and barely escapes an assassination attempt. Going back to London, he begins to contact old acquaintances for information they may have about why he is being pursued after all these years. Jim’s search reconnects him with his girlfriend and Felix (Javier Bardem), the man who wanted him out of the picture from the start. But the answers to his questions are more complicated than a love triangle. And his hunt is further hindered by a recently discovered medical condition that impedes his investigation.
The film opens and closes with a news broadcast describing the situation in the Congo; the first informs the characters’ actions and the second describes the aftermath. However if the movie were to follow-up on the consequences of Jim’s actions and the implications of the lawless manner in which multinationals operate in such countries, it could have been more meaningful and differentiated itself from other pictures in the genre. Instead it simply uses these issues as a setting for a fairly traditional shoot ‘em up that primarily takes place Spain.
The one thing that distinguishes Jim from other characters in the genre is his illness; but it’s also what makes parts of the picture sort of ridiculous. Countless incidents of head trauma have damaged Jim’s brain, causing difficulty remembering and more significantly, debilitating dizziness that can lead to unconsciousness. Thus, there are times when Jim is stumbling away from enemy fire and they are still unable to shoot or overtake him, seriously calling into question the quality of these hired guns (which isn’t exactly atypical in these films).
Otherwise it’s all quite standard. Viewers versed in the genre will likely be able to predict who will die and in some cases how, and where the final showdown will occur. Penn is up to the task and definitely physically fit to play an ex-special forces mercenary haunted by his past and determined to clean up whatever mess has followed his trail. Though I don’t think this will be the start of a new career direction for the middle-aged actor as it was for Neeson — he’s just not as charismatic. Bardem is a fantastic scumbag audiences will love to hate as Felix repeatedly schemes to ruin Jim. In contrast, Ray Winstone is Jim’s likeable comrade who always his back. Idris Elba also has a small role in which he gives a short speech with dual meaning that mostly just serves as an introduction to a character that is unnecessary in the end.
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca and Javier Bardem
More about the gunman, Sean penn, Javier bardem, Idris Elba, ray winstone
 
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