The Gray Man: Gory Spies
I love an action thriller, but the rating and warning don’t really cover this thriller which delights in violence and cruelty for the sake of it and whose camera wants to show the audience everything.
Ryan Gosling is a prisoner recruited to a secret programme within the CIA — a gun for hire essentially, (if the bubblegum brand is right!) But all begins to go wrong when the renamed Six is hired to kill another member of the programme; (they all have a number, it’s very George Orwell 1984). Intelligent and with a conscience, Six is no RoboCop — he begins to question why he’s killing the man he’s killing, won’t take out his mark when there are kids in the room and having been given a series of files on a stick, realises that there is trouble in the kingdom of CIA-dom and who can he trust, if anyone?…
Very fast paced, there is spectacular action sequence after action sequence, glossy location after location. It is a shock seeing Mr Bridgerton Regé-Jean Page being determinedly, professionally evil, driven by Chris Evans’s slimily clean cut villain, who professionally excels in doing his job (torture) and wields a nasty Hitler-esque moustache like a badge of honour. There is a lot of infighting amongst the top brass as they figure out how to stop Six and perhaps stop Chris Evans from stopping everyone else with a campaign of mayhem.
Unlike Bond, Bourne or Fast and Furious, this movie lacks ethics and morality, a conscience (apart from in Six himself). It takes great delight in pushing the boundaries — in not cutting away as someone is being electrocuted or in finger nails being graphically pulled out, almost enjoying the suffering of others as police, civilians, those meant to protect and defend are taken out. At the same time it makes a nonsense of its own delight in horror by cleanly showing shootings, stabbings, hammerings without the nerve damage, blood, bones and brains — cos frankly it would be unwatchable and we’d all be vomiting our way out of the cinema. Equally disturbingly it seemed to delight in having the magnificent Paloma aka Ana de Armas slapped around, before she is finally able to vanquish the men she’s fighting, in dwelling on her weakness and vulnerability. I do really like the character of Six as he wearily observes the chaos and brings some welcome humanity to all the nasties.
Given the everyday horrors happening in the world (Ukraine or Nigeria) this spiteful uber violence seemed in poor taste. Thankfully Ryan Gosling was the conscience in this mired world (he doesn’t throw loaded guns, who does that? and is on a constant hunt for clothing and footwear, and kind to children). we also see Six’s weariness, the impact of what he’s going through on him personally and wordlessly.
Anyway the plot — CIA decided that they want their dodgy damning evidence back and send out lots of professional forces to take Six down in a series of glamourous locations, in public. Meantime, a leader (Fitzroy) from the old days has his niece kidnapped to force him to ‘help’ — only Six has ‘babysat’ the niece before and she has a traceable pacemaker.
There are some fun and funny moments such as Six’s Mission Impossible getting himself out of a trap; Ana di Armas’s Dani on the trail of what Six really knows (whilst avoiding wider detection from the dodgy CIA leaders and doing a lot of double cross) and the honourable Dhunash (Avik San) who will do anything for the CIA, but he won’t do that (i.e. hurt women and kids); although he will have a pointless fight with Dani before saying that he is noble and honourable really — have the drive! Alfre Woodward and Billy Bob Thornton also played noble roles as former CIA operatives stopping the killing hordes streaming after the thing and Six.
Bizarrely what was left of dismembered Chris Evans had a fight with Ryan Gosling’s Six in a fountain (very Bond vibes) to finish things off. Although in the end another leader with a gun does this. Didn’t see the ending coming though — Six becomes surrogate father.
With the use of vinyl records, it all felt a bit Tarantino-esque in tone, uber violence and slick looks, not to mention the bubblegum brand digressions. Stomach churning and revolting in sections, I’m not sure the stellar cast, token fast car or trams(!) made up for it, though there is a lot of non-gory fun to be had along the way. I get that he’s a hit man, but really…in a 15….However at the same time, along with some brutish elements of gore, most of the fighting, stabbing, smacking was so stylised that it was easy to step away from it. Just what have we come to as a society if a movie is gleefully showing us fingernails being ripped out and there we are sitting there, paying money to see this stuff?
Would like to see more cut aways in future; although deeply aspiring, it lacked the class of other long established genres — Bond don’t go this way!!! Note to self — don’t believe the cool looking ads!