By Melvin Twigg Mason
Exhilarating! That’s how the latest offering from the Russo Brothers could be categorized. “The Gray Man” is a fast-paced thrill ride a la “John Wick,” “The Bourne Identity,” or “Rambo”—on steroids. Based on the novel of the same name by Mark Greaney (2009), it stars Ryan Gosling (“LaLa Land,” “The Notebook”), Chris Evans (Marvel’s “Capt America”), Billy Bob Thornton (“Monster’s Ball,” “Bad Santa”), Ana De Armas (“No Time To Die,” “Knives Out”), and a special appearance by Alfre Woodard (Netflix/Marvel’s “Luke Cage”). The screenplay is co-written by Joe Russo, Christopher Marcus, and Steven McFeeley, and is a little more simplified with its plot than the book. But the action is as thick as you’ve come to expect from directors Joe and Anthony Russo (“Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: End Game”), and then some!
After being recruited some 18 years ago out of prison, a CIA covert assassin (a.k.a., a gray man) only known as “Sierra 6” (Gosling) is sent to execute a fellow assassin, Sierra 4. But before Sierra 4 dies, he passes on a data chip to 6 with information that could devastate reputable government organizations, and end alliances, careers… and lives. The director of 6’s Black Ops agency assigns a pathological rogue agent, Lloyd Hansen (an uncharacteristically evil Evans), to put down 6 and retrieve the chip, but this proves to be a continually thwarted objective, with lots of collateral damage. In the process, 6 must also rescue his handler, Don Fitzroy (Thornton), and Fitzroy’s young niece. As Agent Suzanne Brewer tells 6, “you are monstrously good at what you do.”
The fight scenes, with fists and weapons, are fierce and rapid, thanks to choreographers Daniel Hernandez and Felix Betancourt. You’ll be wondering, “How is this guy still walking?!” There are many explosive car chases and gun battles that required lots of well-done post-production visual effects and computer graphics (CGI). These were supervised by Matthieu Chardonnet (2014’s “Dawn of The Planet of The Apes”).
Surprisingly, there is a lot of blood and violence in this movie for it to just be rated PG-13. But it’s not gratuitous bloodshed. For fans of straight-up action/adventure moviemaking, this is the 2022 summer blockbuster for you. At 2 hours and 7 minutes, “The Gray Man” is not a deep-thinking whodunit. It’s straight-forward, eye-popping action with strong female performances turned in by Woodard (retired CIA Commander and 6’s ally, Magaret Cahill), De Armas (another undercover agent who decides to help 6), and Jessica Henwick (agent Brewer), whom you may remember from Marvel TV’s series “Iron Fist” (2018) and, more recently, “Matrix: Resurrections” (2021).
Don’t miss “The Gray Man” in theaters on July 15, and then streaming on Netflix as of July 22.