Gunman – Movie Review by Conor MacNamara
Director: Pierre Morel
Starring: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Jasmine Trinca, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance
Sean Penn, Javier Bardem and a backup cast of solid stars team up for a Bond meets Bourne Euro-shooter? Count me in, now all that is required is an equally solid director – “From the Director of Taken”. Oh.
In his latest entry to the ‘middle aged men with guns’ sub-genre, Pierre Morel attempts to introduce a level of subtly and Bourne-esque conspiracy to his usual formula of mindless machismo in this adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s acclaimed novel ‘The Prone Gunman’ with lukewarm results. Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is a guilt riddled ex-mercenary haunted by his past sub-Saharan exploits, and lost love Annie (Jasmine Trinca), as well as a worsening memory impairing brain disorder requires him to write all names, addresses, top secret info, and locations of loved ones in a mini mountain of loosely kept diaries. This borderline satirical plot device is trotted out constantly by Morel to prod the comatose story along, and otherwise plug up any holes that develop during the movies arduous plod to an equally hilarious climax involving a bull and sudden shift to slapstick humor. However, the narrative fissures of absent character motivations and lack of any internal logic are marginally compensated for by the movies viscerally satisfying action scenes, an art form that Morel has mastered in his years of directing the ‘Taken’ trilogy. This combination of testosterone fuelled gunplay, robust performance by the entire cast (particularly Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance), and shameless pandering to the lowest common denominator via liberal usage of Jasmine Trinca walking pantless towards sunlit windows, results in a film that hits none of the lofty goals it set out for, but hits enough on the way down to land on its feet.
Ultimately, whilst it is commendable that the man behind the ‘Taken’ trilogy is attempting to introduce a degree of subtlety and multi-level narrative complexity to his films, he is a far cry from the contemporaries he is seemingly aspiring to imitate. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t commend the effort.