The Gunman

 

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The bullets fly balletically in a routine action-thriller starring, co-produced and co-written by Sean Penn.

   
Gunman, The

A shot below: Sean Penn

 

Pierre Morel's The Gunman is a mystery-thriller. The real mystery, though, is how Morel, the director of Taken, managed to attract stars of the calibre of Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance to what is a thoroughly conventional shoot-‘em-up. 

 

Adapted from Jean-Patrick Manchette's 1981 novel The Prone Gunman, it’s an international affair featuring Penn as Jim Terrier (seriously), a former Special Forces operative who is lined up to assassinate the ‘minister of mining’ of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This he pulls off with efficient finesse, after which he leaves the country, abandoning his ignorant girlfriend (Jasmine Tranca) in the process. Eight years later he is back in the Congo working as an engineer for a humanitarian initiative, when five heavily-armed men turn up to eliminate him. Dispensing with the quintet with comparative ease, Terrier then flies to London to confront his old associate, ‘Cox,’ played with an odd growl by Mark Rylance.

 

More stars and glamorous locations surface at regular intervals, while Terrier struggles with a debilitating “amyloid plaque build-up” due to a form of “post-concussive syndrome.” Even so, Terrier has little trouble in rising to the occasion when he needs to wipe out a series of trained assassins, even though he’s 54-years-old and seeing double. To be fair, Sean Penn cuts a spectacular figure with his shirt off, which happens to be surprisingly often. The trouble is that as one situation follows another, ladled with deepening mystery and confusion, it’s hard to get a grip on the characters or what is actually going on. Morel handles the action sequences relatively well, with a stand-out involving Terrier’s booby-trapped flat in Barcelona. Another mystery is how Idris Elba became involved. While securing second billing, he only pops up at the end in a thankless part as an Interpol agent. Rylance is better served as a slimy, nasty piece of work, while Ray Winstone hands in his usual dish of Cockney swagger. But it’s all eminently improbable and instantly forgettable.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, Peter Franzén, Javier Bardem.

 

Dir Pierre Morel, Pro Adrián Guerra, Sean Penn, Peter McAleese, Andrew Rona and Joel Silver, Screenplay Don Macpherson, Pete Travis and Sean Penn, from the novel The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette, Ph Flavio Martínez Labiano, Pro Des Andrew Laws, Ed Frédéric Thoraval, Music Marco Beltrami, Costumes Jill Taylor.

 

Anton Capital Entertainment/Canal+/Nostromo Pictures/Silver Pictures/TF1 Films Production-StudioCanal

115 mins. USA/Spain/UK/France. 2015. Rel: 20 March 2015. Cert. 15.