Drafted as a thriller with a love triangle thrown in, “The Gunman” is the tale of an ex-assassin in hiding, who is now being hunted.
In a brief prologue dated 2006, the film opens in Kinshasa in the Congo. A news bulletin reveals how large corporations were seeking control of the natural resources in poor and impoverished countries.
During that phase, in what was referred to as Project Calgary, Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) working for the corporate, assassinates the mining minister of Congo. Then, on the advice of his best friend and partner in crime Felix (Javier Bardem), he leaves behind his girl-friend Annie (Jasmine Trinca) and flees the country.
Eight years later, Jim works for an NGO in a coastal area amidst tight security, when all of a sudden men with arms land up where he works. On realising that they were specifically looking for him, he sets out on a mission to find out who is hunting him.
He travels from Africa to London to Barcelona catching up with old friends, trying to solve this mystery as to who wants him killed. And during the course of the narration it is revealed that Terrier suffers from memory loss, depression and head trauma.
Packed with cliches picked up from “Memento”, “Enemy of the State”, “The Counselor” and “The Expendables” along with impulsive digressions, dubious characters and gaping plot-holes, the script lacks the bite of a wholesome fresh thriller.
Directed by Pierre Morel who had earlier delivered “District 13”, “Taken” and “From Paris With Love”, this film is based on the novel “The Prone Gunman”, by French writer Jean-Patrick Manchette.
Even though the film has an impressive cast line-up offering a great mix of acting styles and accents, wonderful locations with some arresting moments and some highly stylised action sequences, the film fails to impress.
The entire setup seems contrived and a re-launchpad for the ageing Sean Penn.
With a well-chiselled physique, Penn’s Terrier flings his shirt at the drop of a hat, smokes like a chimney and kills in retaliation. He traverses a morally complicated past like a zombie and the script fails to explain how he got into the mess in the very first time or the motive of eliminating him after a lapse of so many years.
As for his performance, Penn, with his attitude on his sleeve, sleepwalks through his character, making it difficult to relate to him.
The screen comes alive with the quirky histrionics of Javier Bardem, Jasmine Trinca and Ray Winstone, who plays Terrier’s friend the helpful friend Stanley.
Mark Rylance as Terrier’s other estranged colleague Cox is functional as the other bad guy. And, Idris Elba as the Interpol Agent is wasted.
Overall, “The Gunman” shoots off-target!