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July 22, 2022 / Netflix

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas

Directed By: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo

When the CIA's most skilled operative-whose true identity is known to none-accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets, a psychopathic former colleague puts a bounty on his head, setting off a global manhunt by international assassins.

Written By Darren

Rating 4.5 out of 5

The Gray Man is a high octane, action packed blockbuster anchored by magnetic lead performances, that not only solidifies the Russo Brothers as the perfect choice to direct a blockbuster film, but delivers one of the most exciting films of the summer!

The Russo Brothers directed my current all time favourite film, Avengers: Endgame, delivering a spectacle that should only be delivered on the big screen with the largest team superheroes ever assembled, so I was very intrigued to see what they would bring to the spy thriller genre. And when Netflix gave them a $200 million budget to adapt Mark Greaney’s novel starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, you can bet this quickly became one of my most anticipated films of the year. While reading Greaney’s novel, I could see the action sequences unfolding in my head, knowing that this could be a massive hit with the right crew behind it. And while there's a stigma to Netflix’s non-award contending films as to their quality, The Gray Man easily shatters that stigma and delivers one of the streamer’s best films to date.

Maintaining the core story of the novel, the film follows Ryan Gosling’s Court Gentry who is hunted down across Europe by Chris Evans’s Lloyd Hansen, as Court makes his way towards Lloyd’s base of operation where Llyod holds Court’s former boss's niece hostage. The novel’s plot is simple, focusing on an isolated incident, but Joe Russo and Stephen McFeely create a larger backstory for the film, revolving around corrupt CIA agents and a conspiracy within the agency. This works well for the film, as it allows for a larger scale story to be told and creates opportunities for more characters to participate in the story, unlike the novel which really only has three characters. Not only that, the grander story allows Netflix to set up a larger arc for Court for Greaney’s future novels to adapt, as it is very clear that Netflix has the next big action franchise on their hands here.

While these changes do cause the interesting relationship between Court and Lloyd to be lost as it would not have worked in this version of Greaney’s story, it's for the better as it delivers a thrilling story that is reminiscent of the Jason Bourne and Mission: Impossible films. Even if the film fails to bring my favourite action sequence from the novel to the screen, which featured Court on a mountain in the middle of the night injured and weaponless taking out the numerous mercenaries that Lloyd had sent to kill him. The screenplay is not without its problems as there are plot ideas not fully explored, leaving the audience wondering about some elements of the story. But knowing the blueprint of the novel, this didn’t bother me at all because I think this was a great adaptation that took the best elements of the novel and did not feel the need to be a slavish page by page adaptation of the source material.

There is no denying that this film is made for the big screen due to the outstanding and exhilarating action sequences throughout the film. The hand to hand combat is precise and brings an intensity to the film that keeps you on the edge of your seat, while the sequence during the second act featuring the train was one of the most exciting sequences of the year behind the final act of Top Gun: Maverick. All of the action sequences in the first two acts build to that climatic third act showdown between Gosling and Evans, and the two of them bring the brutality to the fight, that despite knowing the outcome, still had me concerned for our main character’s life. That one fight scene alone could have gone on for another five minutes and I would not have complained at all.

The cinematography is fine, capturing the scale and intensity of the action sequences, which even with some quick editing and a few moments of soft looking CGI could not distract from the entertaining action exploding across the screen. Helping to build the intensity of the film is Henry Jackman’s musical score which energizes each scene, and some truly great needle drops for some of the action sequences.

As the film’s lead, Gosling is great, capturing the lone wolf intensity of Court while bringing his signature charm and comedic timing to make Court more relatable. Ana de Armas and Jessica Henwick are both solid in their respective roles, fitting into the story as characters not featured in the novel and making their mark on the film. Especially Armas who gets to display her action abilities after her standout single scene in No Time To Die proving herself an excellent action star, while seeing her reunite on screen with Gosling, whom she co-starred with in Blade Runner: 2049, is great. Julia Butters, who put Leonardo DiCaprio in his place in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, once again displays her natural talent for putting some of Hollywood’s finest actors in their place, this time going head to head with Gosling. The two of them have a wonderful banter that bonds their character, providing Gosling’s character with a purpose and connection in his lonely life.

Though, it is Evans who is the standout of the film. I have come to the conclusion that Evans should only play villains, because he is terrifyingly unhinged as Lloyd. Displaying true psychopathic tendencies, Evans revels in toying with Gosling’s Court, almost in a comical sense in one scene, before going on a murderous rampage the next. It’s a role that could have been cartoonish, but Evans brings an unparalleled intensity that makes him one of the most memorable film villains in the past few years. It’s clear why Netflix is looking at giving his character a prequel project, because he was just phenomenal in the film, and despite him being one sadistic monster, I would happily watch that prequel.

There is no denying that most people will watch The Gray Man when it hits Netflix next week, but this is a true action spectacle that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable, as the Russo Brothers intended. With action exploding across the screen that will not fail to excite and deliver a thrilling ride from start to finish, combined with an all star cast featuring a scene stealing and unhinged Chris Evans, the Russo Brothers have created the next great action spectacle with The Gray Man that is one film you cannot miss this summer!

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