Thursday, March 19, 2015

Movie with Abe: The Gunman

The Gunman
Directed by Pierre Morel
Released March 20, 2015

You can find guns in a lot of movies these days. Many are “shoot-em-up” thrillers that feature some unsanctionable murder which gets pinned on an ex-military man of some sort guilty of plenty but not this particular crime. “Taken” is the most popular recent iteration of this, and it’s no surprise that “The Gunman,” directed by Pierre Morel, who helmed the original Liam Neeson film, should feel similar. This action film, based on a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, begins as a more sophisticated look at global conflict, but quickly and magnificently devolves into a mindless mess.

Sean Penn is a noted liberal who has demonstrated his commitment to international affairs and to advocating for worldwide causes that do not receive enough attention. After portraying the husband of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame in “Fair Game,” Penn seems like the perfect fit to play someone theoretically doing good in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Of course, he’s not actually there for mining or humanitarian reasons, but to take out a high-powered minister who threatens the livelihood of his employers. Though he surfs during his free time and protects those less privileged, Penn’s Jim Terrier is not a man of peace, and it’s not long before he goes on the run following a failed assassination attempt by rebels upon his return to the Congo nearly a decade after completing his original mission.

Naturally, a man trying to stay alive would run directly into the face of danger, seeking out those who would target him rather than making a clean break and hiding out. Jim’s belligerence does not bode well for him, as he finds himself up against an impressive legion of professionals intent on killing him. This is where the film succumbs fully to the genre, turning Jim into a superhuman capable of prevailing in any situation. Forget head trauma from unmonitored exposure to gunfire over years that causes him to completely pass out in the middle of gunfights – he is still able to stay conscious long enough to gain the upper hand on his younger, entirely functional pursuers.

Penn’s unemotive performance is a far cry from his Oscar-winning days, and he’s joined by another Oscar veteran phoning it in, Javier Bardem, as a colleague in the Congo with ulterior motives. Suspense is paramount in “The Gunman,” but more than the shock of the events unfolding is their absolute absurdity. Some scenes are outright laughable, and whatever high-minded story about Africa and global enrichment that may have existed in the development of this film are quickly forgotten and buried in the rubble of complete ridiculousness.


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