It seems like only last week I was writing a review for an old man kicks ass film. Oh wait, I was. Hot on the heels of Run All Night comes Sean Penn’s attempt at recreating the Liam Neeson formula, and it looks good on paper. It’s based on a fairly well liked book, it has a great supporting cast, Sean Penn is a believable gun handler and real life man, and they’ve even brought in Pierre Morel, the director of the first Taken to helm the project. So where did it all go wrong?
Firstly, this film suffers from the same problem faced by another film released this week, Wild Card, in that it doesn’t translate very well from the source material. Some of the elements the story focuses on (such as a strange and unrealistic love triangle) might work on the written page, but are in no way cinematic. It also has one of the biggest wastes of talent in any film I’ve seen. I know this is a Sean Penn vehicle, but there’s no excuse for smaller characters having no effort put into them. Oscar winner Javier Bardem and respected British character actor Mark Rylance are both quality actors, but here are on unusually bad form, as is Idris Elba, who also mysteriously grows a full beard between scenes, despite the fact that very little time is meant to have passed.
At least there is some quality in the action sequences. They’re handled very well, with the hand to hand fights being clear and powerful, and the shoot outs being quite tense at times. I’d heard that Penn had gotten into shape for this role, but he’s really been hitting the gym / horse steroids, and even though he’s taking on waves of men half his age I never once felt like it was unrealistic. He is very believable as a gruff badass with skeletons in his closet, maybe even more so than Neeson, who he’s trying so hard to imitate.
Despite the fact that I didn’t really enjoy The Gunman all that much, I would still be interested in seeing Penn play this type of role again. I would even be up for him collaborating with Pierre Morel for a second time, as they seem to work well together, they’re just in need of a better story, or at least a story that’s more suited to the big screen.
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