Where I Watched It: Netflix
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Narration Written By: Dakota Green
Narrated By: Bill Larson
What happens when Netflix throws 200 million at a film? Never anything good. Seriously, please stop giving directors carte Blanche to overspend on crappy big budget star vehicles with little to no purpose. I like The Russo Brothers. I think what they managed to do with The Avengers is nothing short of extraordinary. But, when given the opportunity to go with a mostly original concept, they just churned out something so dull and familiar the only reason it stands out is because it’s a Netflix title that is overhyped. In theatres, this film would have been released, made about 15M opening weekend before legging out to about 40M at the box office. But, under the Netflix strategy, if their subscribers click on it, then the film was successful. At some point, as Netflix is noticing with their decreasing subscription numbers, their base gets tired of paying for overpriced nonsense.
This isn’t a terrible film, despite that intro. Other critics, who aren’t me, have praised this film. Some love Chris Evans. They like the action, the set pieces. Some people are easily pleased. For me, I liked Ryan Gosling more than Chris Evans, because Gosling is actually required to carry the film. He has to fight, and do all this crazy action shit, while having a personality. Chris Evans just has to show up and say things that make him seem Ike a snarky asshole, but his actual on screen fight time is a lot less.
Some people found Ana de Armas to be boring here. I liked her more here than I did in No Time To Die. Also, Billy Bob Thornton offers more to this film than Reggae Jean Page. The action set pieces don’t feel like a 200M set up. It does feel like, because of the rather random inclusion of a castle as a set piece, that The Russo Brothers were trying to spend money just because they had it. There was no need for that castle, and likely it would have saved money. Nothing was gained by that, and it was a dumb set piece from its conception.
The greatest sin of The Gray Man is that it thinks it’s this really smart film. It is written in a way that I think the Russo’s had a blast, and thought about all this homage they were paying to some of the great writers of our time, like Steven Soderbergh and his whip smart Ocean’s 11 writing, literally any Tarantino film, or even lesser known but beloved projects like The Nice Guys, Inherent Vice, or hell even Red Notice.
Part of this project wants you to be really impressed with the action sequences. It wants to be taken seriously as an action film, and a lot of love is put into those scenes, and they usually work well… until someone who watched a lot of Jackie Chan action/comedies comes in and switches the vibe mid-sequence so that the tone is more of a joke than any serious danger. Chris Evans’s character is the worst example of this, because there is so much build up around how badass and sadistic his character is, but it just doesn’t fit. The role is reduced to just some sarcastic dialogue, and him yelling in a way that is never intimidating, but much more Austin Powers villain. He rarely fights, and when he finally does, the scene is so short that you wonder how this guy ever got a reputation to begin with.
It’s a really odd film, because it tonally keeps changing itself. It asks the audience to both take it really seriously, but also be ready for many good laughs, like this is some buddy action movie. This lack of direction and tone is ultimately what kills the Gray Man, which has some smart ideas, but overthinks it way too much and becomes too smart for its own good.
The Blind Perspective: I had the moment where I definitely recognized the voice, and I was like “Oh, I think this is the same guy currently narrating Resident Evil.” bill Larson worked well here, as his voice fit an action film, and Dakota Green took a lot of care with these choreographed action sequences.
Final Thoughts: While it doesn’t really effect the movie, I did really think about what the Russo Brothers tried to do here with Chris Evans, our beloved Captain America. They took someone known for playing a good guy, two Marvel heroes so far, and made him the bad guy. But, instead of relying on his acting for the major shift, they just slapped a moustache on him and walked away. It’s the same thing that they did with Henry Cavill, our current Superman, in the Mission Impossible franchise. his reveal there was expected, and Evans is presented from the beginning as the bad guy. So, a note to all future directors. Stop just adding a moustache to good guys to make them nefarious. That trope died a long time ago.
Final Grade: C+