The Gunman sees Sean Penn join the seemingly unstoppable conveyor belt of aging action men. From Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and of course that man Liam Neeson it seems old is the new tough. But while The Gunman contains numerous action set pieces its globe trotting mystery combined with damaged former military man is desperate to have more in common with The Bourne Identity than it does Taken but ultimately fails to be either.
Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is a mercenary working in the fractured Democratic Republic Of Congo. When he is hired and succeeds in killing the Minister For Mines he has no choice but to flee the continent and his lover Annie (Jasmine Trinca). Years later he returns only to discover he is on a hit-list. Travelling to London he meets up with old colleagues before heading to Spain and finding that his friend, and the man instrumental in the assassination, Felix (Javier Bardem) is now married to Annie and not too pleased to see Jim.
There is a clunky metaphor towards the end of The Gunman which sees Terrier taking down bad guys in a bullfighting arena. As the bulls are encircled by their would-be slayers so Terrier is surrounded and out-gunned. The heavy-handed point being that Terrier is a tiring old bull, battle-worn but determined to dig his horns into something fleshy before he goes out. The problem is that there is a whiff of something else bull related and it’s not their fighting prowess.
Because The Gunman can never quite decide what to be; at times it’s satisfied just being a straight-up action movie, at others it wants to be a globally poignant drama akin to Blood Diamond. As such it succeeds in neither. Taken director Pierre Morel finds kinetic and violent ways of dispatching bad guys but the plot is cumbersome, like wading through treacle but lacking in anything to get genuinely stuck on.
Characters are introduced and dispatched with little regard for anything other than a good bit of blood-letting, quite why the likes of Bardem, Ray Winstone and Idris Elba agreed to star is anyone’s guess so pointless are their characters, and overall it feels, like its protagonist, tired and worn out. If it had the tension of Bourne or the guilty pleasures of Taken it might have merit but it has neither.
A stale and predictable actioner that, despite the occasionally entertaining death, feels more old-man than The Gunman.