Eight years earlier Terrier was part of an assassination team working for an unknown client charged with killing the minister of mining in the Congo. Tapped as the member of the team who actually pulls the trigger and successfully executes the minister, Terrier is forced to exit the country for his own safety, leaving the love of his life, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), behind. Annie has been kept in the dark and has no idea what Terrier does for a living or why he abruptly left the country without even saying goodbye.
The death of the minister leads to more chaos and deaths in an already violent and war filled Congo. Fast forward eight years and Terrier returns to the war-torn Congo working for the NGO, striving to repent for the sins of his past. On a routine mission to drill for water in a small community, Terrier barely survives an assassination attempt from a professional hit squad. Realizing the attempt on his life is connected to the murder of the minister, Terrier is forced to reconnect with his old colleague and now successful businessman, Felix, to see if he can find out who ordered the hit. To his unpleasant surprise, Terrier discovers that Felix is married to Annie. To make matters worse, Felix has led a hit squad right to Terrier, not realizing that the hired killers will kill all three of them. Still in love with Annie, Terrier once again goes on the run but this time Annie flees with him as they attempt to avoid the hit squad hunting them and discover who put the price on his head.
Tedious, boring, and lifeless, The Gunman is an unoriginal action thriller with an implausible plot, one-dimensional characters, and uninspired action. Sean Penn gives an uneven, flat and unbelievable performance as Terrier, a once lethal killer who is trying to repent for his sins and is pulled back into the violent world of hired killers. Penn may be in fine physical shape (there are multiple shirtless scenes verifying he worked out for the role), however he’s no Liam Neeson and is not going to kickstart his career by transitioning into action hero mode.
Javier Bardem delivers an over-the-top, laughable performance as Felix, the ex-handler of Terrier’s old mercenary crew who’s always been envious and jealous of the strong relationship between Terrier and Annie. It’s almost as though his character belongs in a different film…perhaps a crime comedy? Ray Winstone’s talents are completely wasted as Terrier’s only loyal friend, Stanley, who’s nothing more than a convenient plot device for both the killers and Terrier.
The dialogue is riddled with ridiculous lines and the shoot-outs are neither exciting nor realistic, with automatic handguns that never run out of ammo. Wait…it just might be possible Penn’s character and a killer did finally reload during a firefight after shooting about 30 or 40 times… Oh, please.
With a ludicrous script, flat action scenes, and superficial characters, The Gunman is both one of the worst action thrillers and the worst Sean Penn film to hit the big screen in years.
MPAA rating: R for strong violence, language and some sexuality
Running time: 115 minutes
Directed by: Pierre Morel (Taken)
– Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
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