‘The Gray Man’ Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, The Gray Man is an action-thriller spy film directed by the Russo brothers (Avengers: Endgame), from a screenplay written by Joe Russo (Extraction), Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely (Pain & Gain). Featuring Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Dhanush, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Alfre Woodard, and Billy Bob Thornton the film is based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Mark Greaney. The story follows a CIA black ops assassin code name “Sierra Six” who is forced to go on the run after recovering an encrypted drive detailing the corruption within the CIA.

In 2003 senior CIA official Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) visits Courtland Gentry (Ryan Gosling) a prisoner at a Florida state prison. Gentry was incarcerated when he was 15 for killing his abusive father to protect his younger brother. Fitzroy offers Gentry some Bubblicious Watermelon Wave and his freedom. In exchange, Gentry will work for the CIA as an assassin in their Sierra program for an indefinite amount of time.

Eighteen years later Gentry, now going by “Sierra Six” is on a mission in Bangkok with fellow CIA agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas). They are tasked with assassinating a target (Callan Mulvey), codename “Dining Car,” suspected of selling off national security secrets. Refusing to kill a child to take out “Dining Car,” “Six” creates a diversion and engages the target directly. After a lengthy fight the “Dining Car” is mortally wounded and reveals himself as “Sierra Four.” He hands “Six” an encrypted drive detailing the corruption of CIA Center Chief Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), who is the lead agent on the assassination mission.

The Gray Man is noticeably derivative of film franchises like James Bond, Mission Impossible, and The Bourne Identity, but the derivative nature doesn’t matter when the final product is good. As the old saying is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There is even a 007 joke made early on in the story. This formula still works for the spy genre and I’m here for it. What the Russo brothers managed to do here is create a potential new franchise that can last for years. It’ll be years before James Bond is rebooted again, Tom Cruise can only make so many more Mission Impossible movies and the Bourne Series is essentially over. Now is the best time for a film like this to succeed, when there is barely any competition.

One of my favorite aspects of the feature is that all the characters are likable, which is hard for a film to accomplish. Chris Evans shines as the amoral asshole Lloyd Hansen. This is Evans’ second villainous role since his decade-long tenure as Captain America, the first being Ransome in Knives Out. Lloyd is snarky, funny, and downright charming. You wish he were a better person as he would make a good hero if he redeemed himself. He is the kind of villain that you hope will survive the movie so you can see them return in a sequel. Ryan Gosling is equally loveable as “Sierra Six.” He is aloof but friendly and his skill is helped out by quite a bit of good luck throughout the movie. Yes, his lucky breaks can be taken as “plot armor,” but like I said before it “doesn’t matter when the final product is good.” We get just enough information about Lloyd’s past to know the kind of person he is deep down, but with decades still missing there’s enough mystery around him to explore further.

What makes this picture different from other spy movies is the lore it sets up. Having the lead be “Sierra Six” lets audiences know there are at least five other “Sierra” agents out there, technically four after the events of this film. There’s also mention of a high-up CIA official simply known as “the old man.” Dropping these nuggets gets audiences interested in seeing a sequel in hopes that these characters will appear. This film is also action-packed. The fight choreography is pretty good and realistic. There’s a scene where a character is missing fingers and winces in pain after punching someone. This handicap forces him to switch up his fighting style which is better than him somehow fighting through the pain. As mentioned before there are a few cases where the main character survives simply because it is written that way. The plane crash sequence is a prime example. However, this has happened in many spy films and will continue to happen.

If you have a Netflix account, like watching spy movies and seeing beautiful people fight each other, then this is the film for you. While the plot may be a little derivative and a fun ride from beginning to end. I give The Gray Man a Decent 8.9/10. Glad to see this film is getting a sequel and a spinoff. They set themselves up well for an expanded universe with characters like Mulvey’s “Sierra Four” and Dhanush’s Lone Wolf.

One comment

  1. Reviews of The Gray Man are mixed but if you liked the intermittently fast and furious pace of Bill Fairclough’s epic fact based spy novel Beyond Enkription in The Burlington Files series then you will love Anthony Russo’s The Gray Man and vice versa. They both make parts of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series look like slow horses! The Gray Man is about a renegade CIA agent on the run and stars Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans; it’s based on Mark Greaney’s debut novel of the same name. Fairclough’s factual stand-alone thriller Beyond Enkription is about a (real life) MI6 agent on the run from international organised crime gangs and Haiti’s TonTon Macoute from London to Nassau and Port au Prince to Miami. The Gray Man and The Burlington Files are both musts for espionage aficionados. The difference between them is that The Burlington Files series has had mainly five star reviews, it’s full of real characters and was written for espionage cognoscenti some of whom won’t have even heard of the ingenious spycraft tricks featured in this electrifying novel.

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