“Boring,” exclaims Lloyd Hansen time and again when he is unable to extract the information he requires during interrogations. The same is the case with the film. “The Gray Man,” with two of the most handsome faces in Hollywood and a Dhanush garnish, is unable to give us what we want, and is “boring.” Despite being Netflix’s costliest production to date, it barely manages to be serviceable. More than that plot and the action, director duo Joe and Anthony Russo seem to be banking on the cast. “The Gray Man” appears to be another of the Russos’ attempts to give their famed “Avengers” actors new terrain to cover. It began with Chris Hemsworth in Extraction and its upcoming sequel, and now we have Chris Evans in “The Gray Man.”
Other than Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, who also don’t have much to do, even Ana de Armas and Dhanush seem more like “for the sake of it” characters. The traditional storyline for action thrillers is having an agent go rogue only to be hunted while he tries to save the life of a young girl. And the only aspect that could have saved such a plot was the characterization, which failed miserably. Ryan Gosling’s past appears to have been forced upon his character to add a pseudo-weight to it. Evans’ Lloyd Hansen, too, becomes a caricature of a sadist and he is unable to generate even a little hatred towards his character. But this is not to say that Chris Evans didn’t do a good job. It was a well-tried attempt. Perhaps, he did a better job at playing his character than Ryan Gosling. As for Dhanush’s “special appearance,” it is just a formula for the creators of the film to attract Indian audiences, which forms a considerable portion of the viewership. The same was done with Anil Kapoor in “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” Deepika Padukone in “XXX: Return of Xander Cage,” Priyanka Chopra in “Baywatch,” and Huma Qureshi in “Army of the Dead.” There is nothing new in the action, and it is rather cliché. One can make out how the creators tried to fake the Michael Bay MO by using drones to stress the urgency of the action scenes (Watch “Ambulance” on Netflix), but to no avail, as the urgency itself isn’t as quick-paced as it should be. Overall, “The Gray Man” is a one-time binge-worthy watch, and that’s all. There are lots of things that get blown away, but your mind isn’t one of them.
What Happens In ‘The Gray Man’?
Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling) is serving time in prison for murder when he is hired by Donald Fitzroy of the CIA for the Sierra program. He is trained to kill, but the CIA doesn’t take responsibility for Sierra agents (yes, there are more like him). Sierra agents are sent to do jobs that the CIA wants to get done under the radar. Sixteen years later (we have no idea how old Court is or should be by now), he, now known as Sierra Six, is on a mission in Bangkok aided by Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas), a fellow CIA agent. Six has to take out a guy code-named “Dining Star” (Callan Mulvey), who apparently has intel that can compromise the CIA and thus national security. When Six does bring down the guy, he reveals to Six that he is Sierra Four. He then gives Six a pendant that has a chip inside that carries whatever the CIA wants back. The chip reveals that the head of the Tactical Operations Center at the CIA, Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), who now controls the Sierra program, is responsible for numerous unauthorized assassinations and bombings. With such sensitive information in his hands, Six becomes a new target for the CIA which reaches out to psychopath Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to bring him down. What follows is an almost worldwide hot pursuit of Lloyd and his forces to catch Six.
As we mentioned at the beginning, the characters lack depth. The only characters worth mentioning are Six, AKA Court Gentry, and Lloyd Hansen. Let us try to break them down.
Court Gentry AKA Sierra Six
Court, as well as his brother, suffered trauma as a child at the hands of their father. They were beaten and tortured. And it is this torture that ultimately led to Court killing his father, for which he went to prison. The only reason why he was chosen by the CIA is that he had no identity. He went to prison at the age of 15 (born in 1980, sent to prison in 1995). And people without any identity pose no compromise or responsibility. As Fitzroy says, people like Court live in the “gray.” Nobody knows about them, and nobody will. But Fitzroy believed that deep down, Court had the will to do what was necessary. And how both of them interact when Court tells Fitzroy about the chip is proof that they almost share a father-son relationship, the latter having trained the former to become what he is today. It is also the reason why Fitzroy chose Court to look after his niece Claire while he was away, which is almost like a brother taking care of his younger sister.
Despite having all this matter, “The Gray Man” isn’t able to hit the emotional spot for Court’s character. Even when Lloyd tries to suffocate Court to death underwater and we see Court think about how his father used to do the same to him, it all seems forced. This is because the film doesn’t establish the strained relationship Court shares with his father. This, in turn, prevents the Court’s emotional arc from accessing its potential. Neither does his affection for Fitzroy show up, nor for Claire, although the film does try to remind us of it in bits and pieces. For Court, even saving Claire at the end of the film appears to be nothing more than a mission that he is bound to accomplish. And what makes all these even more ineffective is Ryan Gosling’s emotionless face.
Chris Evans has given his best in trying to make Lloyd’s character true to his nature. However, he is too good-looking for such a psychopathic character who is bent on hurting people and taking pleasure in it. And again, just like Court Gentry, Lloyd Hansen’s character isn’t given any history for us to dwell on, which would have helped us accept his behavior. It doesn’t mean that something must have happened to him that made him the way he is today. But at least one event from his military past would have helped establish why everyone is so afraid of him and his methods. It might be that the creators chose Evans to give the character a dichotomy that arose from his handsomeness and his nefariousness. But unfortunately, it didn’t work that well as the former took over the latter, and thus the dichotomy ceased to exist, and so did the character arc.
‘The Gray Man’ Ending Explained: Does Six Throw Light on Carmichael’s Deeds?
Long story short, no. Six does not manage to bring out Carmichael’s unauthorized deeds. Lloyd is shot dead. Six manages to save Claire and escape. The chip is destroyed by Carmichael. This is what further adds to the dissatisfaction. After all that Carmichael made Six go through, to see Carmichael face no consequences is a let-down. Some kind of face-to-face confrontation between Six and Carmichael would have sufficed, but we are deprived of this too. All that we get is Dani warning Carmichael. It could be that Dani has made a copy of the chip or even Six, which would compromise Carmichael forever. But “The Gray Man” leaves it all to the mind.
Overall, “The Gray Man” is just another addition to the list of action thrillers that have nothing to offer other than lots of running and lots of explosions. Yes, we do have Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in new avatars, but we can either choose to watch the film for them and be satisfied, or concentrate on the film’s matter and be left wanting for more.