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The Gunman reviewBy Staci Layne Wilson

Based on a French crime novel, helmed by the director of Taken, and starring a, er, mature, muscle-bound male with a perpetual scowl, The Gunman certainly doesn’t break new ground. Unnecessarily convoluted given its simple premise, it’s as though the screenwriters (all three of them) were trying to hide their procedural plotting behind a kaleidoscope of multicolored herrings.

The story kicks off shortly after ex-assassin Jim Terrier (Penn), has mended his ways and swapped his gun for good causes. Instead of spilling blood, he’s now making sure the flow of clean water is available to the developing world. But someone’s not willing to forget his past, and Terrier is marked for termination. He goes to the U.K., where he tracks down his old cronies (played by Javier Bardem and Mark Rylance), and his former flame, Annie (Jasmine Trinca). Needless to say, he finds himself in a world of trouble.

What he doesn’t find himself in, is his shirt. Baring his bulging biceps and ripped abs to the point of parody, Penn makes Matthew McConaughey look like a Muslim mullah. He also looks at himself in the mirror so often, one half-expects to hear him ask, “Are you talking to me?” Snipes aside, Penn’s angsty acting is aces, even though it’s quite a while since he’s been in front of the camera in a big starring role. While one can certainly see the attraction to a globe-trotting, gun-toting, hard-loving role such as this, one also can’t help but wonder how it all falls so flat.

About halfway through the too-long movie, Ray Winstone and Idris Elba join the flaccid fray. Winstone as a timeworn friend with a place to stay and car to loan, and Elba as an enigmatic government official who’s obsessed with tree-houses. It’s also around this time Terrier is diagnosed with debilitating, sudden, and possibly fatal migraines stemming from a brain-injury suffered when he was in the trenches all those years ago.

Having been to Johannesburg, London, and parts between, the action winds up in Barcelona in… you guessed it: the middle of a bullfight. As heavy-handed as el toro is tough, the symbolism between the dead-tired Terrier and the animal fighting for its life is made plain. Very, very plain.

That’s not to say the movie doesn’t have its moments. The showdown is appropriately gripping and gory, and there are a few flashes of suspense. If you’re looking for a timewaster full of gunfire, explosions, car chases, and double-crosses, then you might want to give The Gunman a shot.

115 Minutes

Rated R

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The Gunman review

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on

1 Comment

  1. william anus-garcia on March 17, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Look, the rest of us haven’t seen this yet so why don’t you lighten up on the Man? From what I saw in the trailers, it seemed like a masterpiece.

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