I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Film pitch time. What if there was one of these “one-man-army” action movies (along the lines of Bourne, Die Hard, Bond, et al), but half-way through the film, our hero, let’s call him Jammy Biggs (played by Eric Bana) gets killed by one of the random baddie henchmen and the movie takes off in a completely new direction afterwards. I think that in the right hands, this would be an awesome twist!
The Gunman is a one-man-army actioner which follows the general formula which was reworked by the excellent Bourne Trilogy from 80’s action movies. Sean Penn plays a former hitman on the run from his previous bosses.
What works a tad better in this movie compared to the three films starring Jason Bourne are some elements of the action.
While Doug Liman and later Paul Greengrass’ work with shaky-cam is some of the best the industry has ever seen, it is nice that The Gunman has a much smoother feel to its action. This satisfaction is only due to the overuse of camera shake in other Bourne imitators.
Secondly, though the violence in the Bournes was devastatingly brutal, some of the best ever put on film without gore, it is a welcome sight, and this is going to sound strange, to see blood in this film. I deeply respect the filmmakers for sticking to their guns, quite literally, and refused to cut away from the action unnecessarily.
Now, a cut-away from a kill can be used for dramatic effect, but often the greatest drama can be delivered by showing us the true ugliness of death. In fact, a friend once made the point to me that “clean” violence, the kind where there is no feeling of the characters feeling pain or death, is actually more of a bad influence for children. Violence can be done over-the-top fun (Commando), over-the-top stylish (Kill Bill), or disturbingly realistic (A History of Violence).
The Gunman is nothing special for its use of violence. But, it does serve as an example to those who want to water down action in order to get more audience members through a 12A rating.
Our lead, Sean Penn, is really good in this movie. His character suffers from the mistakes of his past life and this permeates his surface superbly.
The supporting cast all do a pretty good job as well. Unfortunately however, the film stumbles at the usual obstacle of this sort of film.
Penn’s character has a girlfriend at the beginning of the film. Stuff happens. He has to leave her. A long time later they meet again due to circumstances. They hook up despite the girlfriend being already in a relationship. Stuff happens. They have to go on the run.
These characters do not need to get together here. At best they can be friends by the end. It would make no difference to the plot if instead of them both being in love, he was still in love with her, but it remains unrequited.
I would like to see that more in movies. Instead we have a female character, who on one hand has some really nice moments of strength and breaking down in the face of the madness of the situation. On the other hand, she gets back together with a man who, while a good man, has treated her like dirt.
This annoyed me quite a bit, but I can’t necessarily blame the movie. This sort of trend has been going on since the first movies. It takes proper cajones to break it.
So, all in all, not a bad movie. Just don’t expect me to be raving about it to my friends.
Recommended Scenario: If you want a gritty, no-nonsense action flick, that is pretty similar to most gritty, no-nonsense action flicks.
If what I have written tells you that you would like this film, you can book tickets to see it at your local Cineworld here.