Thursday, March 26, 2015

Movie Review #234: "The Gunman" (2015)

Movie"The Gunman"
Ticket Price: $9.75
Director: Pierre Morel
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
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Terrier (Sean Penn) is a mercenary working for a private security firm protecting NGOs (non-governmental organizations) doing work in the Congo. His security firm takes a side contract to assassinate the Minister of Mines of the Congo, who has recently threatened to cancel all mining contracts for international mining companies. Terrier winds up being the gunman who kills the minister, forcing him to leave the country. Terrier is also forced to leave his girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca), the employee of an NGO, behind without any explanation. Eight years later and now out of the private security business, Terrier returns to the Congo to dig water wells for a different NGO. While there, a hit squad comes looking for him, forcing him to go on the run again. He believes this assault is related to the assassination he committed all those years ago. He seeks out old members of his team, Cox (Mark Rylance) and Felix (Javier Bardem), who is now married to Terrier's ex-girlfriend Annie, to find out who is sending hit squads to kill him. 

When we saw the trailer for this film, we were expecting a "Taken" style action movie with retired super soldier Sean Penn kicking ass all over the place. This would be interlaced with what could be a sordid love affair or a bitchin' tale of backstabbing, all while the perceived bad guy, Javier Bardem, tries to prevent Penn from leaking some massive secret to the world by abducting the woman he loves. But, as is the case with most trailers nowadays, that's not what we got. The trailer for this film is pretty misleading, and in addition to not reading what critics have to say about a film before we actually watch it, we wish there was some way to avoid trailers at all costs because the sheer amount of times they get it completely wrong is baffling. They are difficult to avoid when you go to as many movies as we do. We know the studios who make trailers for films and the people who actually make the movies are two separate groups of people, but there is a common goal between both of them and that is to put as many butts in as many seats as possible. Knowing this, shouldn't the studio want to make a compelling and TRUE trailer?? When a trailer for a movie is misleading, the movie at hand is almost 100% of the time never better than the trailer, which is showcasing of the best stuff in a film. This is a tangent, we are now moving on.

What we wound up watching here is a political thriller centered around the ongoing civil unrest in the Congo with an occasional unadulterated action scene thrown in here and there. Sure, when the action scenes happen they are pretty good with some cool gritty moments of people being shot, things getting blown up and knives being shoved into people's throats, but everything in between is just so trite and boring and long. The politics of this movie is all but lost on the audience because we are never fully engaged in the tragedy of what's going on in the Congo, and any chance we might get interested is lost when Sean Penn removes his shirt. More on that later. Everything else just seems so small scale and petty, and this is primarily because of the little love triangle between Terrier, Felix and Annie, the driving plot point of the film. That whole situation just seems so contrived and expected. Annie is married to Felix and hasn't seen or talked to Terrier in 8 years, but is ready to hump him within 5 minutes of seeing him for the first time in almost a decade. They try to pass Annie and Felix's relationship off as volatile in an effort to make their liaison okay, but Felix and Annie are in the process of taking the next step in their marriage by getting a baby, so we hope they wouldn't be so stupid and selfish knowing there is a possibility they may bring a child into their home. This was a forgotten as quickly as it was mentioned. Annie's whole matter of existence is to be a point of contention and to wind up being an eventual hostage to lure Terrier out in the open. Other than that, she serves absolutely no purpose but to be another pawn in the further, deeper sinking of female empowerment and the regression of a women's place in Hollywood. On top of this love triangle, there is one other glaring problem with this movie, which is the decision to give Sean Penn's Terrier a continuously worsening medical condition that gives him dizzy and fainting spells, yet its only purpose seems to give the bad guys opportunities to escape at key moments. This was both utterly useless and annoying.

From the get-go, we wondered if Sean Penn was the right choice for the lead in what looked like such a hardcore action flick, but if he's the producer, you'd better believe he can do anything he damn well pleases. It turns out, he is decent enough in his role and is convincing as an old, grizzled mercenary, mainly because he is now old and grizzled. He also got in impressive physical shape which makes his part that much more believable. But, being in that kind of physical condition, he took advantage of every opportunity possible to remove his shirt and show off his new chiseled physique, so much so that we are convinced this movie was made strictly so Sean Penn could flaunt his hot body in an effort to make everyone forget he's a woman beater and a generally shitty person. But hey, that's not what we're reviewing, now is it? Apart from Penn, everybody else in the film is underutilized in their parts and are essentially throw away characters with very little or incoherent depth. The talented Javier Bardem, who we typically love, is simply wasted as Felix. His character has essentially been reduced to a jealous, stumbling, drunk husband who can barely form a coherent sentence. Idris Elba is all but useless, too, and is literally in the movie for only three scenes; we'd say his total his screen time at about 4 minutes, max.

The bottom line is this movie is lengthy and boring, and it lacks any emotional connection to the obvious overarching theme about the goings on in the Congo. It even feels like the people in this movie don't want to be there and are simply in it for a check or as a favor to someone else. Unfortunately for them, this movie bombed. What could have been a captivating thriller with some awesome, amped up action and an intriguing, powerful political message just winds up being dull to the max. This is hardly worth the price of a Redbox rental. Just watch "Virunga" instead if you want to know about the conflict in the Congo.

My Rating: 4/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 13%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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