This globetrotting action spy thriller might be by the books, but its two A-list stars going mano a mano make it a must-see on Netflix.
As Netflix continues to retool on all fronts, they are still pushing forward on the content brigade with its biggest-ever original film: The Gray Man. Bringing in the Russo Brothers, just a few years removed from directing the two most recent Avengers films, and starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, this $200-million-dollar film comes with lofty expectations as the world’s biggest streamer is looking for another franchise-building block. Despite its cliches and lack of depth, The Gray Man is a rousing action spy thriller that shows promise as a starter vehicle for a potential franchise. The Gray Man and The Adam Project from earlier this year are exactly the type of big-budget Netflix films that work, even if we wish we could see them roll out in more theaters first.
The Gray Man tells the story of Sierra Six (Gosling) being released from prison after agreeing to join forces with Donald Fitzroy, who works for the CIA. When he teams up with Fitzroy, Six has his name wiped from the face of the earth and takes part in dangerous missions that are not documented. So, like the person he is, the missions he partakes in are in the gray area. But once Six uncovers some troubling things about the agency, led by Denny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page), he is on the run and becomes the target of Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a psychopath who was once in the CIA, and the global manhunt he puts together to take down Six.
The Gray Man is evidence that the Russo Brothers are still finding their footing after directing the Avengers films. Last year, they directed arguably the year’s worst film. And now, they’re back with a blockbuster-level picture featuring a by-the-numbers story that offers up no real dramatic flair, as it’s easy to project where the film will go from the appearance of the title credits until the end credits roll. Not to mention there is some clunky dialogue throughout the film (a majority of which comes from Page’s character, who oddly enough, quickly made his way through the ranks of the CIA ) along with a slight drag halfway through the film. However, all that being said, The Gray Man is a mostly entertaining film, thanks to its action set pieces and two leads who chew up almost all the scenes they’re in. Several of the action sequences are top notch, including one in particular, which happens to account for a fifth of the film’s budget, making it worth the effort to see it in a theater near you.
In previous films, we’ve seen Ryan Gosling play a similar character to the one he plays here as Six. And being one of the few stars left without a franchise-building film, Gosling does a fine job as the titular character, even if it’s weird to see him with a goatee. On the other side of this film is Chris Evans, who is the clear standout in this movie. Essentially taking his Knives Out character up 10 notched, but without a sweater and adding a mustache, Evans charms even if he plays a psychotic villain who also produces some of the funniest dialogue in the film. Whenever these two stars are going up against each other, it makes for the best parts of the film. In smaller roles, Rege-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Alfre Woodard, and Billy Bob Thornton are solid. But one of the other standouts in this film is Ana de Armas, another operative of the CIA who shows off her bad-assery once again coming on the heels of her small role in No Time to Die.
The Gray Man comes at a pivotal moment in Netflix’s future. And while it doesn’t help that a comment the Russo Brothers made last week about the state of movie theaters was bad, there is no denying that The Gray Man works well in a theater and makes you wish Netflix would work out a deal with AMC and Real theaters to show films like this one in a theater rather than recommend audiences to first see it at home. Will they come to some sort of resolution by the time the Knives Out sequel arrives this fall? Let’s hope so. Until then, The Gray Man is a must-see whether in a theater (playing right now at the Malco Smyrna just outside of Nashville) or you catch it on Netflix this weekend. By the end of the film, you get what you pay for with your Netflix subscription, which is Gosling and Evans going toe to toe in a solid popcorn film. And honestly, what more could you ask for?