A skilled CIA operative discovers dark secrets by accident and finds a bounty on his head while assassins chase him in The Gray Man.
If you’re expecting a film similar in tone to any of their Captain America or Avengers work, you can forget it. Even though they are playing in spy thriller territory, Chris Evans is playing as opposite of Captain America as he can get. The mustache here is a choice although should add that I didn’t read the book. Interestingly, the Russos reunion with Evans comes after working on films with Tom Holland and Chris Hemsworth, respectively. It makes one wonder which Avengers star will appear in their next project. But in any event, the film is just about two hours and feels every minute of it when one is quenching their thirst during the film. Don’t do what I did–especially when the restrooms are furthest from where the film is screening at the theater.
CIA operative Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling) is better known Sierra Six once handler Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) commutes his prison sentence. Eighteen years later, Fitzroy is retired. His successor, Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page) has other plans for the program: killing everyone off and putting it to pasture. When Six doesn’t hand over an important item, the CIA puts matters into their own hand. Carmichael brings in former operative Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to do what they cannot. Hansen, who didn’t even last six months, will not stop, no matter the cost. If it means chaos and destruction, so be it! Luckily for Six, Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) doesn’t betray him as Hansen moves night and day to bring Six in. How’s this working out? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film for yourself!
No strangers to set pieces, Prague becomes the center of attention with Six and Dani basically having to fend for themselves. Because of Hansen’s people, the local police are not going to be helpful. The filmmakers approach this sequence in a way that honors the thrillers before it. You’re going to be sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for someone to make a move. It’s a sequence that only works because they’re on location. Filming with green screens on a soundstage doesn’t always capture the same magic. The Prague sequence alone was shot over the course of ten days, shutting down the square.
If you wanted more of Ana de Armas in No Time to Die, you’ll be satisfied here. She gets way more screen time than the Bond movie and gets many moments to kick some ass. The actress also proves that she’s capable of leading an action film, too. She’s on a different side than Evans but in a very different manner than Knives Out. Of course, the two films could not be more different. Meanwhile, Bridgerton fans will get a chance to see a very different side of Rege-Jean Page in his role as the Group Chief. Put it this way, his character would fit right in as a Bond villain as he is very ruthless when it comes to taking action. You certainly would not want to cross him. Meanwhile, Julia Butters, who plays Claire Fitzroy, is a star on the rise.
Regarding the Russos, it’s been interesting to watch their work over the years. While their Avengers movies might be spy-adjacent to an extent, The Gray Man is a complete spy movie through and through. Along with co-writers Markus and McFeely, they’ve certainly done their work in bringing the novel to the screen. Having the Marvel obligations also meant delaying the film about a decade. In the end, this delay pays off. It allows them to cast the likes of Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, and Julia Butters. I suppose casting Chris Evans would have been possible a decade ago but he became a superstar because of Captain America. Say what you will about them but Marvel movies can do wonders for an actor’s box office potential.
Fans of Captain America: The Winter Soldier probably know that the Russo brothers are fans of the 1970s thrillers. The Gray Man moves just as fast as the 1970s thrillers, too, with barely a moment to breathe. I’m not saying it reaches the same level as William Friedkin’s The French Connection but you can definitely see the influences in their work. The big theme in the film comes down to trust. Who can you trust, what with the many complicated characters and all? The Russos, Markus, and McFeely also inject some present-day fears into the script while adding some moments for humor. That’s really what this film is about at the end of the day.
It’s highly likely that this isn’t the last of The Gray Man. During a global press conference on Wednesday, the Russos mentioned wanting to tell more stories in The Gray Man universe. I imagine that a lot of this will come down to how much money Netflix is willing to spend with the amount of budget cuts they’ve had in recent months.
DIRECTORS: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
SCREENWRITERS: Joe Russo and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
CAST: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Wagner Moura, Dhanush, Regé-Jean Page, Julia Butters, Eme Ikwuakor, Scott Haze, with Alfre Woodard and Billy Bob Thornton
Netflix releases The Gray Man in theaters on July 15, 2022 and will start streaming on July 22, 2022. Grade: 3.5/5
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