As it turns out this project did turn out to be something pretty special. Not only is it a brilliant action piece but somehow The Russos managed to get two of Hollywood’s biggest stars to play against type. First we have Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger) playing the villain while Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine) appears in a franchise… something it seemed he would never want to do.
In the film itself Gosling plays Six, a convicted killer hired by the CIA to do the dirty work that nobody else wants to do. His job is to travel around the world and take out dangerous men and women that the CIA need taken care of.
However, things change for him when his handler Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton – Armageddon) is forced to take a step back. Six is then teamed up with another agent named Dani Miranda (Ana de Amas – No Time To Die) and ordered by his new handler Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page – Bridgerton) to execute a target.
But the mission goes wrong and soon Six learns that the target is his predecessor Four and he is carrying important information that shows just how corrupt Carmichael really is. Before Six can show the information to his superiors though Carmichael kidnaps Fitzroy and his daughter Claire (Julia Butters – Once Upon A Time In Hollywood) and hires the psychopathic mercenary Lloyd Hansen (Evans) to take out Six.
To be honest the storyline of The Gray Man is something that we have seen played out in shows like La Femme Nikita and Alias a number of times previously, but what makes this film so stunning is how the Russos have presented it. It is like somebody at the Netflix offices said to them, “Would you guys like to make a Mission Impossible film or a James Bond film?” and their response was “Why not both?”
The action set-pieces here are absolutely spectacular, in fact that may even put some James Bond films to shame. From epic chases through buildings through to an amazing car vs tram chase sequence, the Russos prove what some people have been saying since Captain America: Winter Soldier – that the Russos are the best action directors in the world at the moment. Not only do their action sequences look impressive and keep their audience on the edge of their seat but they also uniquely seem to move the story along at the same time.
What also makes The Gray Man stand out in the action genre is the fact that the Russos get rid of most of the clichés that we have come to expect from action films. You know how normally the villain will threaten to do something evil but then never actually do it? Well, that doesn’t happen here if Lloyd Hansen says he is going to put a bullet in someone’s head or hurt a child – he does it. That raises the suspense stakes all throughout the film to a point where you actually believe that none of the ‘good’ characters are truly safe.
It also feels that the screenplay seems to bring the best out of its cast. Chris Evans seems to love the opportunity to play a vile villain and the result is one of the best character acting performances that we have seen from him over the years. Likewise, Gosling seems to lap up the opportunity to play the hero who gets to jump off buildings and shoot bad guys and he is well supported by Butters and de Amas who are determined not to let their male co-stars steal all the limelight.
If you needed a film to prove to you that Netflix is genuinely now a big player in the film production market then The Gray Man is the film that will do just that. Evans and Gosling are amazing in a film that it is truly worth its $200 million budget as this is one of the best action films we have seen in a long time.
The Gray Man is currently screening on Netflix in Phuket.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus