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"The Gray Man" (2022) - The Yawn Ultimatum

Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.

The teaser art for, "The Gray Man."

The teaser art for, "The Gray Man."

The CIA's Biggest Secret: How to Be as Boring as Possible

Originally pulled into the agency as a means to get out of prison, Sierra Six (Ryan Gosling) joined the CIA to kill evil men and has spent 18 years being the best at what he does. During a recent mission, Six encounters his target who claims to be another CIA agent. Upon his death, he gives Six an encrypted drive loaded with secrets the agency has been trying to keep hidden.

Now known to be in possession of the drive, Six goes on the run as the CIA tries to hunt him down with every operative they can throw at him. Taking charge of the hunt is a sociopath with a fetish for torture named Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans). While retrieval of the drive is the key mission, Lloyd is known for savoring his sadistic method of being successful.

Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Mark Greaney, The Gray Man is an action thriller directed by Anthony and Joe Russo with a screenplay by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely. The cast also includes Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda, a female CIA agent who is working with Six, and Billy Bob Thornton as Donald Fitzroy; the man who recruited Six and is the closest thing to family Six has. Take note of Indian actor Dhanush as Avik San, as well. Avik San is one of the mercenaries Lloyd recruits to try to help him retrieve the drive Six is now in possession of.

At a little over two hours in length, The Gray Man is a clunky and drawn action thriller. The action is the selling point of the film. The exploding plane sequence followed by Six’s fight with another mercenary during freefall is a highlight as is the Prague train sequence, which is easily the film’s most intense action scene. The Gray Man bounces all over the world constantly, which results in some intriguing visuals. Bangkok is loaded with bright and colorful lights, which gives this almost candy-like visual style to assassinations.

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Dhanush as Avik San in, "The Gray Man."

Dhanush as Avik San in, "The Gray Man."

If You Want an Omelet, You Have to Kill a Few People

But while the first half of the film seems to be brightly lit and blooming with color, the second half is so dark that you can hardly decipher what’s happening on screen. Fight scenes are noticeably sped up to look faster, everything is dimly lit and visually dark, and the quick cuts of the editing style of the film seem to be hiding the shortcomings of whichever actors are slacking in the martial arts department. Dhanush is easily the most skilled fighter of the cast and showcases some impressive martial arts that any action film fan will cheer for. However, his fight scene with Ana de Armas is ruined by poor lighting and chaotic editing.

While the cast of the film is great, the screenplay they’re working with is massively dull. Everything that occurs outside of any action sequence is boring. None of the jokes land the way they’re supposed to and most of the dialogue feels like shop talk fluff that isn’t necessarily unimportant, but is certainly a chore to sit through.

Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans as Sierra Six and Lloyd Hansen in, "The Gray Man."

Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans as Sierra Six and Lloyd Hansen in, "The Gray Man."

Just Another Thursday

This is also one of the few times where it feels like a PG-13 rating hurt the film. It seems like it took more effort to not show any blood splatters and not ever say the F word than it would to just let loose and be John Wick every once in a while. When one of your main characters has a psychopathic personality that loves to kill and torture, it feels like a diluted concept when all we ever see him do is twist someone’s ears and rip off a couple of fingernails. Chris Evans is the most charismatic character in the film’s cast, but you don’t really buy Lloyd Hansen as anything more than a guy who does stupid things over and over again along with allowing dozens of people to die until he eventually and accidentally succeeds.

The Gray Man has some impressive action sequences, but is such a lackluster film experience overall. Most of the action is bogged down by sloppy editing where a complete absence of proper lighting ruins whatever positives the film had going for it. The talented cast does what they can with their roles, but it’s not enough to make the film entertaining. Ana de Armas is mostly forgettable apart from shooting tranquilizer darts in guy’s butts and firing a rocket launcher a few times. Tedious and sluggish with punches and kicks and kills that barely satisfy, The Gray Man is a dead on arrival action thriller that squanders potential almost as often as Ryan Gosling chews gum.

Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda in, "The Gray Man."

Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda in, "The Gray Man."

© 2022 Chris Sawin

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