Watch your back, Liam Neeson! Sean Penn’s trying to steal your Eurostar-hopping, bad-guy-capping, getting-too-old-for-this-shit thunder. To be fair, ‘The Gunman’ has loftier ambitions than the average Neeson run-and-shooter: based on a popular French crime novel, it’s the tale of taciturn ex-assassin Jim Terrier (Penn, unnervingly ripped), who has traded in his sniper rifle for a spade and turned to digging clean water trenches in the developing world. When he begins to suspect that someone’s trying to bump him off, Jim returns to London to track down and warn his old support team (including reformed ruffians Javier Bardem and Mark Rylance).
‘The Gunman’ has its heart in the right place, and there’s no arguing with that none-more-grizzled cast: Bardem and Rylance are both enjoyably unhinged, Ray Winstone pops up as Penn’s grouchy protector and Idris Elba plays a shady official with a strange fetish for treehouses. But thanks to ‘Taken’ director Pierre Morel, this too often feels like just another slice of brainless Eurotrash, packed with saw-it-coming plot twists, half-hearted car chases and an angsty hero with mega muscles and zero charisma.