It appears Pierre Morel is now incapable of making anything that isn’t trying to replicate TAKEN. It also appears Sean Penn has lost his shit and is trying to channel Liam Neeson and do the old man action hero thing. Sadly, or more luckily, I was ill for this screening and again Kernel Morgan stepped in, you could say she was not a fan. THE GUNMAN released today in Australia from StudioCanal Australia, it is rated MA15+ and runs for 115mins. Enjoy Morgan ripping it a new one. All the best………….JK.
DESTROYED BY MORGAN BELL 🙂
THE GUNMAN is a grimy international political thriller, starring a tired looking Sean Penn as Jim Terrier, a spy and sniper. This is one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long while. It seemed like a vanity project for Penn to show off his newly muscled chest and arms, which really only produced a weird juxtaposition of an old head on a young body. This body transformation did not save his character from being completely abhorrent and depressing. The movie was dull and dreary, and more than a little bit misogynistic.
In the screening I attended many movie-goers walked out during the second half of the film. THE GUNMAN is directed by Pierre Morel and tries to replicate a mishmash of the thrills of TAKEN and the serious social commentary of DISTRICT 13, two of his previous films. He achieves neither. We delve into the politics of corruption in the Congo through news snippets and setting, but through the lense of unethical characters. There isn’t a good guy among them.
The film was based on the 1981 French noir thriller novel of Jean-Patrick Manchette, entitled THE PRONE GUNMAN, which was, by all reports, a nihilistic parody of the ‘hit-man completing one final score to escape a life of crime’ trope. The film seems to have strayed far from the source material and when we sieve through the remains we are left with brutal violence and misery with no real point.
Jim Terrier is working in the Congo under the guise of being security personnel for a mining corporation. His girlfriend Annie, played by Italian actor Jasmine Trinca, is a medical aid worker. In the opening scene we see Jim and Annie as an annoyingly smoochy couple at a bar full of rough single men. It is clear that Annie’s co-worker Felix (Javier Bardem in his hammiest performance to date) is envious of their relationship – perhaps because their nauseating public displays of affection are continually rubbed in his face – and he covets Annie, as an object, because that’s basically all she is in this film. After completing his one last snuff job, Jim hands over ownership of Annie to Felix like she is a gift.
Trinca conveys the stoicism of Annie with ease. Her character is a bag of bones that gets led around, thrown down, beaten, and passed about by all the men in the movie. After a time lapse from the assassination in the Congo we find Annie in Europe, now married to Felix, and attempting to adopt a child. The adoption seemed like an unnecessary detail to reinforce that she is ‘damaged goods’. We are told that Jim’s hit on the Minister for Mining causes the Congo to descend further into chaos, and that Annie suffered violence, likely sexual assault (the men were ‘wild dogs’ says Mr Cox from Aquila corporation), in the aftermath. Felix protected her a little too late. She says to Jim, about Felix: ‘I tried to repay the debt with marriage. I’m still paying, and he’s still collecting.’
I don’t know what the point of Annie’s storyline is, other than to be the damsel in distress that men save, and fight over, and exploit. Maybe we needed her for a bit of flesh for the sex scenes and fresh-out-of-the-shower scenes. Maybe we needed someone for Sean Penn to crash tackle and squash into the ground while he carries on an entire long conversation with Javier Bardem. She could very well represent the Congo. A nation where, we are told, mining corporations intentionally prolong war so they can plunder mineral wealth for personal gain. A character that on the face of it is being helped, but really has her well-being completely disregarded by all that claim to be her saviour.
Felix is creepy and unhinged. Bardem is playing some composite character that is a mix between his role of death-bringer Anton Chigurh in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and his role of James Bond nemesis and super-villain Raoul Silva in SKYFALL. Yet, as Felix, he is completely useless, impotent, and unsuccessful. No amount of dragging Annie around by the arm or deranged laughter makes him seem masculine. And his lack of ethics does nothing to improve Jim’s lack of ethics by comparison. Nobody in this movie has any ethics.
Jim Terrier, in the first half of the film, is diagnosed with a cumulative head trauma which causes memory loss. This did not stop the screen-writers from giving him ludicrously long and absurdly detailed rapid-fire instructions to bark at Annie, local native worker Eugene (who is in a state of shock from witnessing Jim kill a gunman with a shovel), or a random secretary from the evil Acquila Inc. Go here, grab this, write this down, take four rights and four lefts, and go to up a level and turn around and dispose of this and say that. It’s just silly.
It was a relief when Idris Elba finally appeared on screen as an Interpol agent. We finally get a sense of calm and order, and cleanliness. Elba is debonair, smooth, and charming. He speaks in a thinly guised metaphor about building a woodwork project in his garden. We see him in fresh open air on a beautiful day with trees and clear sky with warm sunlight bringing out the glow in his skin. And then there’s the cretinously sick Penn by comparison. I wanted to follow Elba home to his garden and escape the drudgery.
Unfortunately there needed to be a few more scenes of abusing Annie. She is drugged and dragged around the crowded stalls of a bull-fighting ring. Bloody and beaten, in plain daylight, being chased by a crazed gunman, not a single person helps her or attempts to stop her pursuer.
It is no surprise that three men wrote this screenplay. It is also no surprise that Sean Penn was a producer on this pile of rubbish. He let his desire to join the ‘over-fifty aging action hero’ genre outweigh his generally good instincts about characterisation and script. This is a flop.