The Gunman

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Two big talents -- Ray Winstone and Sean Penn.

Things start off in the Congo 10 years previously, and an international aid agency is trying to help out. Sean Penn and his crew provide security. Penn hooks up with Annie (Italian actress Jasmine Trinca). I overheard one critic say she was too young to play his girlfriend (she’s 34). Problem with that logic is Penn is dating Charlize Theron in real life (and she’s just a few years older than Trinca).

We see that a co-worker, played by Javier Bardem, has eyes for Annie. We also find out that along with security and humanitarian work that Penn is involved in…he also bumps people off. He makes a shot from a hotel window, taking out a government minister that’s stalling talks the mining contractors need. Yet just like in the movie I saw the other night (Run All Night), these hitmen always have a change of heart, feel guilty, and…they’re great to their families or girlfriends, so we’re supposed to root for them.

After that fatal gunshot, Penn has to leave the country immediately. This means he can’t kiss Annie goodbye, and of course, Bardem will try to seize the opportunity. It’s nice to see Bardem playing a drunk convincingly, and getting that horrible taste out of our mouths from the awful The Counselor last year. The screenwriters could’ve worked on more clever dialogue for Bardem and not made it so obvious that he might be trouble later.

Since the director is the guy that gave us the disappointing From Paris with Love and Taken, that means we have many clichés. One subplot involves Penn dealing with headaches. We realize this will mean at a crucial point, he’ll have a headache come on when he has his gun drawn on a bad guy.

Wait a second! Wasn’t that same thing done in the James Bond movie in which Bardem played the bad guy? And the filmmakers wonder why critics attack action pictures.

Penn ended up leaving all the killing behind, and goes full throttle into humanitarian work. He builds irrigation systems, while occasionally catching a wave on his board. Yes, Jeff Spicoli strikes again. Now, many are calling this a vanity project for Penn, just because he has the washboard abs and bulging arms. It wasn’t until we had the scene of him surfing that I thought that was the case.

When his character is trying to fix a machine, an attack happens. Penn realizes they were there to kill him, and he has to go back to his old boss and find out why. This means the audience is supposed to suspect every person he comes into contact with.

One of those guys is stage actor Mark Rylance, who along with the talented Idris Elba, seem wasted. We’d like a bit more back-story on these characters and better lines.

Ray Winstone, always a welcome sight as the heavy on screen, has a bit more to do as a buddy of Penn’s.

If this had starred Liam Neeson, I’d probably be giving it a bad review. Yet watching Penn play this part made it a nice change of pace. In one scene, he’s in bed trying to go back to sleep, but lovingly looking at Annie while snuggled under the covers. Another time he’s wanting answers, and sounding and looking like an older Jason Bourne. Again, we don’t usually see this from Penn, so it worked.

It may have had a weak storyline, especially when it came to the whole conspiracy angle, but the choreographed fights were entertaining. That doesn’t mean things didn’t get a little cheesy when we’re at the bullfights in the third act, but hey…you could do worse with an action picture.

This gets 3 stars out of 5.


  • bob pearl

    well once again I will never understand the mind of a critic and all the reasoning for the stars. All I could gather is that if it was Liam then a bad score but since it was a so called welcome change with Sean it gets three stars. I still can’t understand it and will never forgive the 0 star for the boy next door but then i will always give a star just cuz it has JeLo,lol. Maybe that’s how some feel about Sean Penn, but he did do a good job and if you hadn’t have mentioned it I never even thought anything about the age difference of Annie. Maybe cuz of seeing Madonna all week on Ellen who has been with a 22 year old. Anyway the movie was great going from congo to london to spain where there is nothing better than a bull finally tearing apart someone even though they were almost dead anyway. The storyline was good and it shows something a lot might not be aware of how big international business are so corrupt and that our country goes places that we would never be at only because of what riches can be taken from there for large companies profits hiding behind covert operations not intended for the public to know. I may be wrong but Im thinking this is a movie to somehow wake some of us up to want more audits and justification before any US companies expect our military to go to foreign countries and fight for so called freedom when it really is for other selfish reasons. I saw a lot of things happen that I always thought was going on as even in fiction there is always some little truths in there. Ok enough for me I agree with 3 stars as it was well acted out but most of all it was very mind blowing which I am sure went over many heads as to how many divisions of governments get involved and how they try to cover it up.

  • Jo F.

    After reading what Bob wrote, I’m worried it’s Sean Penn spouting politics. That’s kind of worrying me. He annoys me when he goes down that path.

  • kjnm

    I laugh at you Josh. You reviews are crappy. Please give me another humorous response like you did when criticized my comment about the Cosby gold-diggers. It’s such a shame I waiting over a month to see that funny, brain-dead rant. You need to get off the drugs and join the real world

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