The Gunman

Directed By: Pierre Morel

Starring: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, Peter Franzén, and Javier Bardem

With director Pierre Morel of Taken fame at the helm, acting royalty Sean Penn in the lead role, and a host of acclaimed supporting cast members, The Gunman should have been far better than it turned out to be.  On paper, it's cinematic gold.  However, it's been abundantly clear in every trailer and TV spot that this film would hardly hit the spot.  It's just a hot mess, and the film's muted attempt at giving us bullets with a message fails miserably in just about every way.

It's 2006.  In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jim Terrier (Penn) is publicly working as security for an NGO.  He and the team with which he works, however, have some other less public marching orders from their company to assassinate the DRC's Minister of Mining.  The day the assignment comes, his leads Cox (Mark Rylance) and Felix (Javier Bardem) make it clear that whomever is selected to be the shooter must be into the wind once the job is done.  Unfortunately for Jim, that shooter just happens to be him.  He kills the Mining Minister, plunges the DRC into a bloody civil war over natural resources, and leaves the love of his life Annie (Jasmine Trinca) for the foreseeable future.

In the present, Jim comes out of hiding and begins working with an NGO in the Congo.  This time, it's actually legitimate.  Things go well for a while but soon several gunmen try to kill him.  Concerned that it has something to do with his sins of 2006, he goes to London to get some clarity and information from his longtime friend Stanley (Ray Winstone).  There's another problem at hand for Jim, however, his health.  After years of taking hits to the head, he now suffers from severe headaches and incoherence.  The symptoms manifest around any loud noises.  According to a doctor, there’s a buildup of amyloid from head trauma in his brain akin to that of someone with early onset Alzheimer's disease.  Meanwhile, Interpol agent DuPont (Idris Elba) looks to uncover the secrets of the past as well.

Inconsistency is the name of the game for The Gunman.  There's no better example of this than the depiction of Sean Penn's Jim Terrier.  With the head trauma with which he's been diagnosed, he should not be around any loud noises.  Otherwise, the symptoms will certainly recur per his doctor.  Time and time again, however, this middle-age imitation of Jason Bourne finds himself in bullet-laced showdowns with explosions galore.  When it matters, he's fine and roaring into action.  When it doesn't, he's collapsing like the ailing individual he is.  In the real world, ailments and their symptoms don't have such discretion.  This inconsistent portrayal of Jim Terrier is emblematic of the problem that plagues Pierre Morel's The Gunman.

This inconsistency that defines The Gunman is certainly clear with its incoherent narrative as well.  It lacks structure altogether.  Hopping from one international hotspot to another, from one antagonist to another, and from one agency to another, the film just can't find its footing.  It's just all over the map, and it keeps moviegoers from really being able to get into the movie.  Whether we're talking about Jim's love life with Annie, the many individuals who seemingly enter his world at random, or the amorphous company that's hunting him down, the film lacks a much-needed consistency.  In a worthless attempt to distract his audience from this reality, Morel frequently showcases Sean Penn’s physique on camera pointlessly.  This clear gimmick only debases the film further.

As I wrote early in this review, The Gunman is a hot mess.  For what it's got going for it on paper, that's a real shame.  Its underwhelming message about the costly nature of corporate malfeasance really doesn’t translate on the big screen.  The Gunman gets a wasted rating.  Have some kamikaze shots with this one.