The Gunman Blu-ray Review

     Director: Andrew Rona
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Ultraviolet, Color, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (Dolby TrueHD)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • Release Date: June 30, 2015
  • Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016

  •         Sean Penn has a somewhat humorless reputation, having proven himself unable to take jokes told in good fun at award ceremonies and a tendency to align himself with projects with more serious tones. Combine this with his stance in political and social matters and it soon becomes difficult to imagine Penn involved in any type of escapist entertainment. I don’t know if The Gunman was adjusted to fit his sensibility or if the material was simply weighed down by the somberness of the star, but the result is an action thriller that is never as fun as it should be.


            Much of the movie instead feels like a vanity project for Penn to prove that he can look the part for an action movie while simultaneously shoehorning plenty of political cynicism and paranoia into the narrative. The time left for actual action sequences in not nearly enough to save the film from its own weightiness, however well choreographed or intense these brief moments are. Action movies should be fun, and no amount of bulking up at the gym can distract from Penn’s unwillingness to take a break from his signature scowl. Even if the basic structure of the film holds some promise of excitement, Penn’s control as co-screenwriter, producer and even the editing process, seems to have drained all fun from the narrative.


            Though overly convoluted with political criticism, The Gunman’s premise is actually rather simple. After completing a job as a mercenary assassinating the minister of mines in the Congo, a black ops sniper named Jim Terrier (Penn) has an inexplicable change of heart and attempts to give up his life as a hired killer. While doing humanitarian work in the Congo eight years later, Terrier suddenly finds himself hunted down by a hit squad sent to kill him. While avoiding the assassins trying to dispatch him, Terrier must discover who sold him out and why they suddenly want him dead.


            This storyline alone may have been enough to fill the screen time with exciting action and intrigue, but far more of the screenplay is concerned with the political reasons behind the initial assassination and an awkward love triangle. While undercover preparing for the assassination in the Congo, Terrier began a relationship with a woman named Annie (Jasmine Trinca), who he must leave after the job is complete. Unfortunately for Terrier, his fellow mercenary team member, Felix (Javier Bardem), uses the situation to his advantage in winning over Annie in his absence. So instead of focusing on why people are trying to kill Terrier, the film takes a lengthy break to analyze the disloyalty of Felix, and Annie’s real reasons for the betrayal.


            Either the film is too long or simply spends too much time on slower aspects of the storyline, because it drags far too much for a film made by Pierre Morel (Taken, The Transporter). The cast is stacked, even including an insignificantly small role for Idris Elba, but all characters seem to be set-up merely to make Penn’s character look better. Despite the buildup and a huge paycheck, Bardem plays an unimpressive and sniveling villain who comes off more like a petulant and jealous child than a worthy adversary, and Interpol only comes into play after Terrier has single-handedly saved the day. The film lacks a worthy bad guy, instead choosing to vilify the political system that allows injustice to take place. This may have suited Penn’s motives, but it sure makes for dull viewing. It really is a shame, because the action scenes are exciting when removed from the other 90-minutes of the film.


            The Blu-ray combo pack also comes with a DVD and Digital HD copy of the film, though there are no special features to speak of. This seems strange, even for a film as widely panned as this was. The only saving grace of the package is an impressive Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which captures more excitement in the TrueHD 7.1 surround sound than the film deserves. I found myself marveling at the sound even when the film had left me unimpressed. The high definition visuals are also somewhat impressive, though I was far less interested in watching countless scenes of Penn’s middle-aged muscles on display.


    Entertainment Value: 6/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10

    Historical Significance:  4/10

    Special Features: 1/10

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