21st Jul2015

‘The Gunman’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Jasmine Trinca, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Billy Billingham, Peter Franzén, Daniel Adegboyega, Ade Oyefeso, Rachel Lascar | Written by Don MacPherson, Pete Travis, Sean Penn | Directed by Pierre Morel


After working as a mercenary in the Congo, Terrier (Sean Penn) lives a life away from action, his health, and his life affected by his past deeds. When it seems he has been marked out for assassination he tries to reconnect with past colleagues to discover the reason for his sudden targeting, suspecting a clean-up job is in progress. With the net closing in and past crimes coming back to haunt him, it is not until he re-connects with Felix (Javier Bardem) and past girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca) that events take a deadly turn.

The Gunman would like to be a movie with a message, and there are moments where you are made to think about private companies actions in the Congo and the use of mercenaries. To keep the film marketable though it feels like this message is dumbed by the focus on action scenes. For those wanting the more insightful focus on the evils done to the Congo, this can be a disappointment. For those wanting an action film there is definitely a lot to take from this movie.

From Pierre Morel, the director of Taken, The Gunman feels like it tries to be more realistic in terms of the violence it depicts. Not going for grand set-ups there is plenty of blood and a lot of impact but closers combat. Giving Terrier’s brain injuries due to the combat he has been in is interesting, but could have been handled in a much more thoughtful way. Especially when the subject is so serious in relation to problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is one of the issues with The Gunman though, it wants to be a serious movie, but the dumbing down also lessens that impact.

Looking at the cast you can’t help but be impressed. Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Jasmine Trinca, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone and Mark Rylance are all well cast. The feel that the mercenaries are now older and trying to escape their past, these actors are perfect for the role. Though Elba may not feel to be as aging as the others, he doesn’t play the same role. As the “cop with a heart” type character, his appearances may be fleeting but the performance he gives is worth it. Jasmine Trinca is also good as the innocent who feels she must pay for the past, even if she is more of a victim from the association with these people.

What is impressive about The Gunman is the fact that there is no grey area when it comes to the actions taken. Penn’s character is not a good person, he has done bad things, but he is also willing to pay for it. We are never pushed to see him as an innocent, but we also see that he is seeking redemption for his deeds.

While The Gunman in many ways does feel like a missed opportunity, there is a message there if you want to see it, and really, you cannot miss it. It is a shame that the impact is lessened, and that it feels like this was done to focus more on the action but in the end you have to accept the final product. A strong and entertaining action film with more of a focus on the realism and repercussions of violence, Sean Penn gives The Gunman a serious edge, just a shame the movie wasn’t meant to be as serious as he seems to have wanted it to be.

**** 4/5

The Gunman is available in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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