From the opening scene through to the very last frame, "The Gunman" is completely predictable, and a brutally violent, gory mess. Despite its insane savagery, the beginning and end of "The Gunman" are downright laughable.
When the film opens in 2006 in the Congo, Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is supposedly present to aid the people who are being slaughtered in their homeland. His girlfriend, Annie (Jasmine Trinca) is a doctor aiding in the same effort. In the first sequence, Jim meets Annie in the local bar, and the two of them canoodle in front of all of Jim's peers, including Felix (Javier Bardem), who is literally drooling over Annie, and watching the two of them with blatant desire. It is seriously one of the most ridiculous scenes I have seen in a long time. Penn is 54 years old --- he is not 15, which is how old he is acting. Gag, gag, gag ---
Back to the synopsis --- In reality, Jim and his cohorts are in the Congo as part of a coalition of hired killers working for the companies who are mining the land. This group is present to protect their interests. When it comes time for an assassination, it is Jim who is "selected" --- big surprise there. He must disappear immediately following the act, leaving Annie behind, with no explanation, and Felix ready to step in.
Fast forward eight years and Jim is once again in the Congo, only this time he really is there to help the people. Out of the blue, a convoy arrives where Jim is drilling for fresh water and tries to kill him --- and they are definitely after Jim, and whomever stands in their way. He escapes to London, where he locates another ex-conspirator, Cox (Mark Rylance), who is now fabulously wealthy and running a multi-national firm.
From Cox, Jim learns that Felix is currently residing in Barcelona. In an effort to get to the bottom of who is trying to get him offed, he contacts an old friend, Stanley (Ray Winstone), who arranges for a car and safe house in Barcelona. The bad news is Jim has suffered long-term head trauma, and suffers from headaches, blurred vision, etc., and more damage will only exacerbate his decline.
I must tell you that by this point in the movie, I couldn't have cared less if Penn dropped over dead, and the film concluded. "The Gunman" is the biggest waste of talent, period.
Directed by Pierre Morel, who helmed the original "Taken" (2008), based on the novel "The Prone Gunman" by Jean-Patrick Manchette, with a screenplay adapted by Don MacPherson, Pete Travis and Penn, "The Gunman" is seriously one of the worst excuses for an action thriller. What, if anything, is different here about the planned assassination of a government official gone bad, with the perpetrator on the run across Europe?
It wouldn't be so painful if the dialogue wasn't so banal. Plus, we can detect every single turn of events before they happen. Felix covets Annie, Annie loves Jim, Jim must go away and asks Felix to take care of Annie, years later Annie and Felix are unhappily married --- geez --- who writes this crap? Stanley helps Jim, Jim is in trouble and can't warn Stanley, Stanley is tortured by Cox, who turns out to be the ringleader who wants Jim dead --- oooohhhh --- didn't see that coming. I mean, really, my eight-year-old nephew could have penned a better script.
And to top it off, the A-list actors present are given nothing of importance to do. Winstone is completely under-utilized, and he is such a marvelous actor. Idris Elba doesn't appear until the film is almost over --- I had forgotten he was even in this production.
The most disappointing aspect of "The Gunman" is that we have come to expect so much from Penn, thus with him as the star, co-writer and co-producer, one would assume this would have been a taut, well-paced, exciting international action thriller. Instead, it's a retread of every single ex-special forces melee ever produced. And I must comment on the very last scene. I will not give away the ending, but it is so corny and ludicrous, I actually wanted to guffaw out loud. Instead, I ran out of the theater howling!
The only notable and appealing thing about "The Gunman" is Penn's body. He is so buff and fit, it's hard to believe he's fifty-four. That's what happens when you're engaged to someone as gorgeous as Charlize Theron, who is only 39 --- you have to be in shape no matter what your age!
Opinion: Don't Bother!
I agree with Jeanne on this one --- "The Gunman" is not a very good film. It is basically a showcase for Sean Penn to show off his amazingly buff body and huge "guns" --- a.k.a. biceps --- which are remarkable for a 54-year-old man. Since his Oscar-winning turn in "Milk" in 2008, Penn has been relatively quiet, unless you consider "The Tree of Life" an important role.
While director Pierre Morel manages to build tension in parts of "The Gunman", it's pretty hollow considering we don't care much for Jim Terrier, Penn's character. After all, he's a hired killer, and although he and his girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca) are portrayed as humanitarians, we don't see much evidence of their efforts in this regard.
We do see occasional archival footage of a starving child in what is presumably the Congo, or a naked toddler walking aimlessly in the dirt. We see still photos of the carnage in some areas, but we rarely witness Annie or Jim actually helping these individuals to any degree. So the script doesn't really provide a reason to like these characters.
As for Annie, when we first meet her, she is all over Jim in a bar setting, kissing and doting on him to a sickening level. It's an uncomfortably embarrassing display of public affection --- you want to shout "get a room!" at the screen --- but it's designed to make one of Jim's partners in crime, Felix (Javier Bardem) jealous because he has the hots for Annie. Right away we have a negative opinion of them.
The film is full of violent gunplay, as the title suggests, and vicious hand-to-hand combat, which is ultimately boring. There is also a silly chase scene through the stands of a bullfight arena in Barcelona. Thankfully, one lucky bull gets to gore a bad guy.
This is all very disappointing given that Morel directed the exciting and innovative "District B13" a few years ago, and more recently, the original "Taken". At least he was smart enough to divorce himself from that franchise before it became an unwelcome cinematic joke.
Idris Elba, so effective as Nelson Mandela in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" (2013) is billed as a main character, but he has a limited role. The most interesting part belongs to Ray Winstone as Stanley, a staunch Jim supporter, but he meets an untimely, albeit predictable, end.
Opinion: Don't Bother!