Sean Penn stars as ex-soldier turned private security firm assassin in the action packed thriller The Gunman.
The film begins in 2006, Jim (Penn), is working for military contractors in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he is to carry out an assassination of the Minister of Mining. After the deed is done he has to disappear, leaving the woman he loves behind. The film then picks up eight years later when the sins of his past return to haunt him.
The film kicks off with news-footage of the distraught African region, and takes quite a serious stance grounding us in reality. Does the film scrutinize the United States use of mercenaries in war torn countries? Sadly not. The Gunman soon becomes the usual action thriller with a heart of gold killer who knows too much, needs to save the girl, and all the while taking down an evil shadowy organization that’s behind it all.
Once I realised this was simply a thriller in the vein of the classic early 80’s action movies I really enjoyed it. Penn looks like he can handle himself, and though the outstanding ensemble cast is underused, they are a pleasure to watch on screen. Javier Bardem as Felix, the fellow military contractor, finds it impossible to hide the fact that he has eyes for Penn’s love interest Annie, played by the perfectly cast Jasmine Trinca.
Ray Winstone is a semi-retired former colleague of Jim’s; the very cockney Stanley. Idis Elba is the ultra-smooth Interpol agent, Depont, who is only in the film for about 10 mins, but who’s going to turn down being in a film alongside Penn and Winstone!
The Gunman will inevitably be compared to the Taken series, and rightly so as it not only has the original Taken director, but also an older leading man. If you are thinking ‘why should I go see an over-50’s action hero movie?’ Well, I’d go because of the director. Pierre Morel demonstrates why he should have stayed on the Taken franchise. The action sequences are clear, precise and fun. The fight scenes feel fresh and raw, just as they did in the original Taken.
If you can get pasted some gratuitous Sean Penn abs, that will make even the most young and fit in the audience think they need to go the Gym more, then you will enjoy The Gunman.
Don’t over think it, the film doesn’t. Pure popcorn with love, loss and betrayal, and lots of explosions and guns.
Reviewed by Ian Wright
The Gunman is out in NZ Cinemas from 30 April.