The Gray Man (2022)

Quick Synopsis: When the CIA’s top asset — his identity known to no one — uncovers agency secrets, he triggers a global hunt by assassins set loose by his ex-colleague.

Bless netflix, they keep trying. The way people consume movies has changed, and netflix, logically, wants a piece of that. Big-budget, loud, explosive blockbusters always sell to the masses, so that’s what they try. They’re not going with small actors and directors either, they’ve roped in Will Smith, Ryan Reynolds, The Rock, Adam Sandler, Scorsese, De Niro etc. But they still can’t quite to the level needed. Yeah, the stuff gets watched by people, but the effects don’t last long. Just compare that to the television shows they’ve done; you don’t need to have watched Stranger Things to be aware of it. Stranger Things, Sandman, House Of Cards etc, they’ve penetrated pop culture in a way that none of the Netflix original movies has managed.

So, does this movie break that underwhelming run? I mean, it’s got Ryan BabyGoose, Chris Evans in full heel mode (and reunited with fellow Knives Out cast member Ana De Armas), it’s based on a successful book (which has sequels, so easy to franchise), and made by the Russo brothers (no, not Vince Russo, even netflix aren’t that stupid), who directed two Captain America movies, and the last two Avengers movies (you may have heard of them). So all pre-watch indicators say that it should be great.

I mean, obviously, it’s not, if a film was that good, I wouldn’t have waited until the third paragraph to let you know. That whole preamble was just to set up the inevitable disappointment. It’s alright, but it’s been less than a week and I’ve already forgotten a lot of what happened. The trouble is it never feels like it has its own identity. Die Hard is “the film in the skyscraper”, John Wick is defined by its stylistic choices. There’s no equivalent way to describe this. I’m not sure how you would define this movie in terms of describing it in a way that makes it stand out (I’m not sure “That Netflix Action Movie” counts). You won’t watch other films in the future and think “ah, they stole that shot from The Gray Man”. You’re not going to hear someone in the future say “I was inspired to get into film-making/writing by watching The Gray Man”. All it does feel like is a tribute to other films. The whole thing feels like a remake of a 90s Harrison Ford film which starred a young Ben Affleck as the villain. A film made in 2022 shouldn’t feel as dated as this does. It is possible to do a spy film, adhere to the tropes, and not feel as 90’s as this one does.

It does have it’s good side; Chris Evans playing an evil prick is always entertaining to see, and Ryan BabyGoose never fails to bring it, De Armas continues to impress but still needs THAT role to take her to the next level. Personal opinion, they messed up on one bit of casting. There’s a character at the start (Sierra Four) who is an assassin who worked for the CIA and gets killed while attempting to expose corruption. Considering the genre, and the pull that the Russo brothers have, they should have had a big name here. A fun cameo to please the audience, instead it’s just some guy. I mean, no disrespect to Callan Mulvey, he’s a talented performer, but it definitely feels like a wasted opportunity.

That’s a good summary of the film really: it’s good, but you really feel it could be better if it cared.

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