Oh great, another action film with the lead being a seasoned ex-Special Forces member who ends up taking out more bad guys than years old he is. Sean Penn gives it his all as a former gun for hire who suffers from debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and attempts to allude mercenaries and rekindle a former fling.
Pierre Morel, the same man who brought “Taken” to the big screen, just eight years prior, also directed “The Gunman.” The two films have quite a few similarities. Sean Penn stars as Jim Terrier, a former Special Forces soldier who has all of the traits you would expect from such a highly trained operative.
The movie begins with Terrier working on what appears to be a humanitarian project in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006. The film does a pretty good job of explaining the conflict as simple as possible to the audience through news reports and through these reports it is learned that corruption among mining companies is what fuels this film.
Terrier is tasked with protecting NGO workers from rebel forces in the area who want nothing to do with big businesses. Annie, played by Jasmine Trinca, is an aid worker who is among the organization that looks to Terrier’s men for protection. Annie and Terrier have a blossoming relationship, which helps them both stay optimistic in such a horrible situation full of violence.
Not everything is as cut and dry as a humanitarian mission as it appears a mine is also part of the NGO’s project. However, once the Minister of Mines in the Congo cancels all contracts, Terrier’s objective shifts, as his men and him must take out the minister to ensure the plummeting of Africa continues.
Javier Bardem joins the cast as Terrier’s kind of boss but sort of partner who is shady in his own right but does his work with a pen rather than a firearm. He confirms to Jim that he has been chosen to eliminate the minister and stipulations state he must flee the continent once the job is done.
Terrier does assassinate the Minister of Mines with a sniper rifle and flees shortly thereafter without alerting Annie of what is truly happening.
Eight years pass and Terrier returns to the Congo as an aid worker looking to drill water wells for impoverished villages. Then a jeep full of rebel soldiers busts into the village and demands to know where the “white man” is.
Obviously paranoid about this assassination attempt, Terrier enlists the help of old friends from 2006 who may have information about who is coming after him. All the while he is battling severe PTSD and has Annie constantly on his mind.
The film has its white-knuckle moments where Penn is badly outnumbered and takes out henchmen through hand-to-hand combat, reminiscent of Jason Bourne. However, the film lacks creativity and simply rests on the clichés of previous AARP action stars in recent memory.
Sean Penn is very good as to be expected, but the supporting characters aren’t given enough screen time to be integral at all. Javier Bardem is poorly miscast and his character is awful in almost every painstakingly awkward display of conversation he gets in his maybe ten minutes of screen time.
The plot has its issues and is quite laughable when you imagine an eight-year absence between former lovers quickly picks right back up with little missteps at all.
If you are looking for a thriller full of average dialogue, above average action sequences, and a below average plot; then “The Gunman” is for you. 2/5.