Are we reaching the end of the era of the dark blockbuster? Top Gun: Maverick, an action movie in constant high-speed pursuit of a good time, is the year’s biggest film. Marvel’s latest, Thor: Love and Thunder, almost entirely ditches the usual gloomy undertones for pure comedy. Now we have this, Netflix’s depressingly titled, reportedly $200 million action movie about assassins and lots of death. Joyfully, it shows no interest in brooding and simply throws its all into being as absurdly fun as possible. It’s one of the most enjoyable movies of the year so far and easily the streamer’s best action film yet.
The Gray Man has the sort of plot that sounds complex but is incredibly simple. The absurdly named Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling) is released from prison, his murder sentence expunged on the agreement that he becomes a shadowy CIA assassin – the ‘gray man’ of the title. After 20 years of killing without question, this man, renamed Sierra Six, comes across evidence that suggests his boss (Regé-Jean Page) is up to something bad (yes, worse than assassinating people).
Six goes on the run, the CIA sends a sociopathic bounty hunter, Lloyd (Chris Evans), after him and they bounce around Europe trying to kill each other. In short: it’s a massive cat-and-mouse chase.
It sounds a bit Bourne, a bit Bond, but it has a tone closer to something like a Fast and Furious movie, but with much better dialogue and stronger actors delivering it. Gosling reminds us just how brilliant he is at comedy, delivering kiss-off lines with a world-weary sigh, rather than gruffly spitting them. Evans, with a pervert’s moustache and a constant temper, is having the time of his life as the completely awful Lloyd. As a CIA agent helping Six, Ana de Armas follows her stand-out No Time to Die performance with another signal to Hollywood to just give her her own action franchise already.
It’s like a Fast & Furious movie, only with better dialogue and stronger actors delivering it
The film plays to all the strengths of Avengers: Endgame directors, Russo brothers, asking them to combine the snarky comedy and massive action they did so well in those Marvel movies. Working again with Avengers co-writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley, they’ve devised some wonderfully imaginative, bombastically-executed action sequence.
It all adds up to a film that’s a blast throughout. Netflix may still be in search of awards season glory, but the streamer has finally shown that it can make tentpole entertainment as well as the big boys. You won’t see many more purely entertaining movies this summer.