Director: Pierre Morel
Cast: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Javier Bardem, Idris Elba
Plot: An ex-soldier who carried out an assassination on the Minister of Mining of the Democratic Republic Of Congo finds himself being targeted by a hit squad eight years later. In order to find out who's behind it, he goes in search of all the people who knew about his hit job.
Review: It's truly baffling that Pierre Morel, the director of Taken and From Paris With Love, could miss the mark on his latest feature, The Gunman. I suppose every director has his day off. The truth is, it's not a terrible film, just not close to the quality that is expected of him.
The film focuses on Jim Terrier, an ex-soldier who's doing security work for NGOs in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but secretly carrying out hit orders for private contractors who want control of the minerals in the country. Terrier's last job is killing the Minister of Mining, after which he goes into hiding, forcing to leave behind his girlfriend Annie (who's a doctor helping war victims in Congo). Eight years later, Terrier is targeted by a hit squad, and he suspects whoever's behind it is connected to the job he carried out. So he seeks out everyone who knew about that job, including old friends who have now become rivals.
The setup was actually promising, to be honest. Despite the all too familiar scenario of spy thrillers that involve travelling, covert ops and finding out who to trust and who not to, it can be entertaining if done right. Unfortunately, Morel chooses to focus on the plot points that are less interesting and leaves little time for the ones that are. The most glaring example is the love triangle between Terrier, Annie and their friend Felix played by Javier Bardem. This part of the film takes up at least a third of the screen time, with another chunk of the film spent on Terrier rekindling his relationship with Annie. As a result of this, too little time is spent on some much needed action sequences and plot twists to spice up the film.
The only real reason to see this is Sean Penn, who holds the film together by being its lead actor and anchor. He's solid as the tired man who wants to know why he's being hunted and by whom. It would have been better if they followed up on the subplot about his illness though. Out of the supporting cast, Ray Winstone and Jasmine Trinca fare the best, the former as an ally of Terrier and the latter as Annie, though admittedly, Trinca is mostly a damsel to be gawked at by male viewers, not that I mind. Bardem and poor Idris Elba are unjustly underused here, but Mark Rylance gives a good portrayal as another one of Terrier's acquaintances.
There are a few action sequences here, and while they were shot well enough, there should have been more. Morel spent too much time on exposition and personal drama, and too little on the mystery behind who's targeting Terrier, which is quite predictable to be honest.
The Gunman is basically wasted potential, considering the people involved in it. If you're a fan of Sean Penn, you can check it out. Otherwise, try something else. (6/10)