The Gray Man

It’s going to be hard to top the following description of Gray Man, a film that I was excited to watch without knowing many details based purely on an A.V. Club review:

"The Gray Man" exists "in the gray" of Hollywood action movies — not jaw-droppingly incredibly, not astoundingly bad, just there. It's a movie that's made to be half-watched on Netflix while scrolling on your phone. Its greatest disappointment is that it knows what it has — Gosling, a great cast, a lot of money — and it still ends up being less than the sum of its parts.

I will begin with what I liked: Ana de Armas’ new role as action heroine (picking up very much where she left off in No Time To Die ↗) and Chris Evans’ relish with which he plays a villainous ham, bolstered in an insane mustache and a costuming department which, it can be said, is very much in on the joke.

That, I think, is the end of the list, and the movie’s sins are too numerous to hone in on any single one of them. This movie is incoherent in a literal sense, sure, but also every single line in the script feels demeaning to all involved. The direction and color grading is awful, but also there are gratuitous drone shots that appear to exist for no other reason than to spend a few extra million dollars. (How did this movie cost two hundred million dollars?, Haley and I asked ourselves a half-dozen times over the course of the two-hour runtime.) The CIA leads, characters so thin that calling them “cardboard cutouts” heaps undue praise, were in particular vying for the worst acting performances I’ve seen in years. And all of these terrible things swirl and enhance upon another, such that when you stumble from one scene to another you’re not entirely sure what to blame: is it the acting? is it the script? is it the direction? is it the sheer utter lack of sincerity? (We decided it was, more than anything else, the script.)

An addendum, from a week later — one of the things that we found remarkable about the film over the course of watching it though I forgot to mention due to the surfeit of other, uh, noteworthy shortcomings was its utter disregard for time and space. There was no sense of distance travelled or time elapsed: despite this taking place in around a half-dozen different cities, our protagonists fast-travelled with wild abandon, smash cutting from one locale to another with nary an establishing shot. I wonder if this is a bit of a code smell for narrative laziness: it reminds me of latter-era Game of Thrones ↗, where the showrunners abandoned all pretense of landscape and limitation and just let people kind of bop around as the plot demanded.

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