Review of: The Gunman
The Gunman has some serious talent behind it. Sean Penn is the star and a producer. Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Indris Elba and Mark Rylance are powerful supporting player. And the director, Pierre Morel, made my favorite action movie Taken.
So why is it that I didn’t like this film as much as I should have?
The story is about Jim Terrier (Penn) who works for a security company providing service to the humanitarian aid group providing medical care during the civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jim’s girlfriend, Annie(Jasmine Trinca) is a doctor for the aid group. The problem is that Jim’s company is really mercenaries hired by the rebel have the Congo’s Minister of Mining killed. And Jim is the one who pulls the trigger. He now has to leave the country, and leave Annie behind.
So, Jim is a mercenary and has done some very bad things. And as it turns out he has all along has been collecting files and recordings of all of the bad things he and his company has done over the years. I think this means we are suppose to feel that Jim is basically a good person. Especially so when he comes back to the Congo years later to drill water wells. He is repentant.
But I could not really care that much about Jim’s repentance. Not even when he is attacked by rebel forces. Someone knows he was the assassin and is trying to kill him and find his stash of evidence. Of course, compared to the bad guys in this film, Felix (Javier Bardem) and Cox (Mark Rylance), Jim is almost a choir boy. But this does not mean I can really sympathize with his plight. The peril he is in is of his own making.
But the film makers try really hard to make you care about Jim. Besides being betrayed by friends and colleagues, and being attacked on all sides, it turns out he also has brain damage. After Jim passes out a doctor tell him that the years of hazardous duty has given him Post Concussion Syndrome. I think the brain damage is supposed to be a metaphor for Jim’s damaged soul. This still doesn’t give me enough of a reason to root for Jim’s survival.
But what I did care about is that Jim is out to protect the only good and caring person in this movie, Annie. In those rare scenes where she is not in jeopardy, Annie is selflessly caring for victims of the Congolese civil war. Jim has to beat the henchmen of the evil mining company to save Annie’s life.
Don’t get me wrong. You should see this film. The actors are great. Sean Penn, like so many of today’s aging film stars has turned himself into an action hero. Ray Winstone plays the gruff, seedy friend who helps Jim with his quest to save Annie. And Javier Bardem can play the creepy but smooth villain better that anyone. The action (mostly fights and gun fights) are extremely good. So, when so many of today’s successful action movies can barely string a coherent storyline together, The Gunman is almost Othello.