As previously discussed in my TAK3N review, Luc Besson and company have been on my shit list lately. Maybe all of France has. I don’t know. So this director (Pierre Morel) was the cinematographer on The Transporter (Written by Besson), then he directed District B-13 (Written by Besson), then he did camera work on Transporter 2 (Written by Besson), then he directed Taken and From Paris With Love (Both written by Besson), then he does nothing but a couple of TV shows for a few years and then winds up adapting a French crime novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, whose other famous novel is called Three To Kill (Not to be confused with Three Days To Kill written by, you got it, Luc Besson).
I didn’t check though. I saw the trailer and thought, “Sean Penn is doing an action movie? I bet that’ll be good” Penn can basically do anything he wants. He’s the Bono of actors. Normally the stuff he picks turns out decent. He produced it too and he’s so picky about producing that I haven’t even heard of the other films he’s produced except Into The Wild (Which he also directed). Then Joel Silver’s name popped up. Joel Silver has produced almost every great action movie ever. He’s done over a hundred movies and sure, there’s a couple of stinkers on there, but mostly it’s all stuff I’ve enjoyed. I wish I would have looked deeper though.
“Looked deeper so I can regret all the things I’ve done…”
This film is based on a book entitled The Prone Gunman. The plot follows a French operative who asked his high school sweetheart to wait ten years for him (Spoiler alert- She doesn’t) while he goes off and assassinates as many people as he can to make enough money to live off for the rest of his life. When he attempts to retire, the company tries to pressure him into doing one last job with a huge payday. When that doesn’t convince him, they send the vengeful family of one of his victims after him. This isn’t to kill him mind you, it’s supposed to get him back inline somehow. Meanwhile, he returns to his hometown to discover the love of his life is married and that his accountant has squandered all the money he saved. Not to be deterred though, he decides he can get her back and the money too. This all results in him having a nervous breakdown which temporarily makes him unable to speak. It’s also specifically mentioned that he loses his girlfriend because he’s bad in bed, which may have had way more to do with him becoming mute than all that regret about killing people. The book ends with him brain damaged and living in his hometown, where the patrons of the bar he works at as a waiter mock him.
Keep all that in mind as I now tell you the plot of it’s film adaptation. The screenplay of this was written by three men. Pete Travis directed the last Judge Dredd movie. This is his first writing credit. Then you have Sean Penn. The last thing he wrote was a public service short that starred him and Kid Rock (I am not making that up). Other than that, he hasn’t written anything since Into The Wild in 2007. Prior to that, he hadn’t written anything since the 90′s. The last is Don MacPherson, who hasn’t written anything since The Avengers.
Not that Avengers… this Avengers
SPOILER ALERT- As usual, since this is a bad movie I will be giving away spoilers to make my point. Also, like the film itself this review will be far too long. If your attention span wavers, just skip to the end of the synopsis. The movie starts off in a bar in 2006 (Just like it did for me). Jim Terrier (Penn) is American ex-special forces and working security for a mining company in the Congo. He is madly in love with Annie (The delectable Jasmine Trinca) a doctors without borders type. Typical Nicolas Sparks odd couple type stuff. “I shoot people then you save them.” The only thing that seems to be wrong with his life is a slight memory loss he assumes is from dehydration which is causing him to have to start writing things down. He even videos things he wants to not forget. Their attache’ to the mining company is Felix (Javier Bardem- No Country For Old Men, Skyfall), who is very clearly doing everything he can to get out of the friend zone with Annie. This sets up the first trend of the movie… Felix is always drinking. A new Minister of the Mines has been elected in the Congo though and he is cancelling all preexisting mining contracts. Only one thing to do… cancel him first.
Terrier goes in with a small team. Cox (Mark Rylance) lays out the plan. The three of them will be setting up at different points where they can snipe the minister. Felix will decide who takes the shot and the shooter has to leave the country until everything dies down. I wonder if Felix will pick the guy whose girlfriend he is in love with…
“Come on, Yeem. Do I look like I could steal your girl?”
Here we’ll take our first break and discuss a few things. They have done nothing to establish this yet, but Terrier and his team are the bad guys. It feels like a normal movie where the new minister is corrupt so they have to take him out but that’s not true. The minister is a good guy trying to save his country from the foreign mining companies that are raping it so Sean Penn and his men are paid to take him out. They do nothing to point this out. There’s no two minute scene talking about how the minister is a good dude, or how he became a martyr for the cause, or anything like that. Also, there’s pussy ass Felix. Instead of just making him overtly bad and having him send Jim away so he can try and hook up with his girlfriend they make it very blatantly obvious that he and Jim are friends. He likes Jim. Terrier even tells him to look after Annie while he’s gone. Felix looks like he even feels bad about it. Also, if you go back up and look at the synopsis of the book, it doesn’t even go near Africa.
Anyways, Terrier flees the country. Then we see Sean Penn surfing. This sets up another trend that will remain through most of the movie… Sean Penn will be shirtless. Also, if you look at a map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo you’ll see how much beach front property they have. Also, there are sharks everywhere. Then he goes back to his job at an NGO attempting to provide clean water to the Congo. Is this Terrier’s cover job for his mercenary assassin work? No. Several years have passed and instead of putting, “Six years later…” up on screen they decided to just shave Sean Penn’s mustache. It seems that Terrier, seeking repentance for his past sins, has retired to a life of well digging.
“Can’t surf without fresh water.”
He goes out drilling and three men show up looking for him. Two of them have machetes and one has a rifle. You think maybe if you were going to send somebody after an ex-special forces assassin you might send some well armed professionals? Terrier is able to kill them with some help from his trusty sidekick and then flees back to London. He goes to see Cox at the mysterious “company” and find out who is after him. Cox, and the company, are doing better than ever since they’ve expanded globally. Cox mentions that the only person besides their four man team who knew about the mission is Felix who is living in Spain. It’s also revealed that a mysterious man with a lighter is surveilling him.
Terrier seeks the help of his old pal Stanley (Ray Winstone- The Departed). They meet in a pub and get into a bar fight, natch. After leaving the bar, Terrier’s vision gets blurry and he passes out. A double cross? Did Stanley put something in his drink? Did someone inject him during the fight? No. He wakes up in the hospital diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy due to his years of combat and being around large explosions. This is the cause of his headaches and memory loss. Any further trauma to the head will exacerbate his condition… but fuck that, gotta get to Felix.
Terrier arrives in Spain and discovers that Felix has married Annie and is doing very well financially. They are even trying to adopt their first child. Terrier confronts Felix at work, who tells him he will look into it. He also tells him he should come have dinner with he and Annie. Terrier arrives and discovers that Felix has not revealed to Annie that he is in town. The look on Annie’s face when she sees Jim confirms for Felix that she is still in love with him. He continues drinking to deal with this and starts acting like a dick. Annie leaves.
“We come here because your cooking sucks.”
The next day, he sends Annie to Jim to pass along the message that he has the information Terrier is looking for about who is trying to kill him. Jim, having just gotten out of the shower, is shirtless (Again). Surprise surprise, before they can get around to that they have wild, passionate, clothes on sex. It is unclear if this is break up sex or make up sex though. She reveals to Jim that she married Felix to pay a debt to him for looking after her after Jim left but then refuses to kiss Jim before she leaves.
Let’s have our second break here. If you figured out your wife wanted to bone a guy would you send her over to his apartment alone to pass on a message instead of just calling him? Secondly, why don’t they take their clothes off to have sex? This movie is Rated R and stars a foreign actress but for some reason you never see her naked despite the fact that she is naked three or four times throughout the movie. Meanwhile, Sean Penn is running around shirtless in almost every scene.
“I still can’t believe what I’ve done…”
The following day Jim travels out to Felix’s ranch outside the city to receive the information. Something’s up though, and Terrier figures out the Felix is setting him up. Felix does reveal he found out that the other two members of their team are dead and that international justice is seeking them out. They will pay for the crimes they committed. Felix gets his though as a sniper round tears through the back of his skull. A team of mercenaries has surrounded the house and is going to kill everyone inside so Jim has to go take them out one by one. This culminates in a pretty sweet moment where Sean Penn gets in a shoot out while he is on fire. Despite there being a fire, Sean Penn may take his shirt off here. He takes out everyone but the leader and escapes with Annie after blowing up the guy’s car. Since he’s now trapped in the Spanish countryside I’m sure we won’t ever see him again in the film. He’s played by Peter Franzen, who according to his IMDB page is one of the most respected Finnish actors of all time.
You mean you haven’t seen Stygga Poikar?
Let’s pause again. Despite being a paranoid ex-special forces assassin, Jim doesn’t smell a set up here until Felix starts drunkenly acting weird. Secondly, if you’re setting up a paranoid ex-special forces assassin to be taken out in your home why would you get wasted before he shows up? Third, why did he leave the one guy alive? Annie could have driven off while he hid behind a rock and shot the guy in the back when he came out. I’m not even in special forces and I thought of that.
Jim and Annie drive to a safehouse Stanley has set up and Jim goes to confront Cox. Here, we meet the enigmatic man with the lighter that was tracking Jim earlier, JD the Interpol Agent (Idris Elba). They have a pretty cool scene about building treehouses and JD tells him that if he ever wants to build one he should call him. He also warns him not to go into Cox’s treehouse because it’s full of termites. Jim calls Cox and tells him to meet at an aquarium instead. Upon arriving, Jim takes out an ambush before it can get him and kidnaps Cox. Cox reveals that the company was entering into a partnership with another company and had to tie up any loose ends that could make the deal go down. He also reveals that Annie was raped after Jim left the Congo. Jim, meanwhile, reveals that because of his memory loss, he has tons of notes he took that could be used as evidence against the company. Cox’s guys show up and he escapes. There’s a short shoot out during which Jim drops his notebook (Containing the address of the safehouse) but he eventually escapes, tears his shirt off (Again) and passes out in the street for several hours.
Let’s pause again. So this team assassinated a political leader and never talked about it so you decide to murder them all for doing exactly what you paid them to do and doing it well? They also somehow knew about Jim’s diaries even though he never told anyone about them. They also never, at any point further in the film, mention Annie being raped. She never confirms or denies it and it’s never brought back up. Then there’s the fact that Sean Penn passes out in the street (Shirtless) for several hours and nobody ever finds him or helps him.
Anyways, so Jim wakes up and Cox has already kidnapped Annie and Stanley. Stanley bites the bullet but Jim tells Cox he better turn Annie over or he’ll turn over the evidence, including actual video footage of Cox handing out the assassination mission of the minister of mining (Say that five times fast). Jim needs back up so he calls Interpol. They meet at a bull fight of all places. Jim kills a couple of lackeys but gets wounded. Now he has to go to the veterinary office and dress his wound… which means that for the remainder of the scene he will be shirtless (Again) and wearing only a bulletproof vest.
You think I’m kidding?
He kills the main lackey, then Cox, Interpol shows up after everyone is dead (Natch), and Jim is taken into custody. Bad news though, even though Jim played ball he still has to go to jail for all the stuff he’s done. We’re shown Stanley’s funeral, which Jim is allowed to attend in handcuffs. Then we flash forward another unknown amount of time to see Annie is back at work as a doctor in Africa. A cab pulls up, Jim gets out, they hug, happily ever after, credits.
What? So… Jim serves like six months and they just let him go and allow him to leave the country? And keep in mind again, how this in no way even comes close to the book. This reminds me of how they said The Strangers was based on true events and the true events were that one time some people knocked on a guy’s door and he got scared. They changed almost everything about this including the title. I don’t understand why this keeps happening.
“This is how I change the channel.”
I think the biggest problem with this movie was the not-so-subtle political agenda. Sean Penn is the only American in the film and even though he is the hero he is still a bad guy. Jinx described it as, “My Left Foot meets Taken“. It reminded me of the Republican lesbian I once met. Sure, there’s nothing that says that can’t happen but at the end of the day something just seems off about it. Maybe liberals can’t make action movies (Except Matt Damon). So many things about this movie don’t make sense.
There’s also this weird bull metaphor thing throughout the movie. They show bulls several times before ending up at the bull fights even though they go out of their way to mention in the credits that bull fighting has been illegal in Spain for years. I think they’re trying to make the point that if Terrier had the thick skull of a bull then he wouldn’t have the traumatic brain injury? Maybe?
The Gunman is like what I imagine having sex with me is like. It blows it’s wad in the opening and then trudges on for the next hour and fifty minutes occasionally causing pleasure by accident and is carried by good acting. I can’t recall ever seeing a bad movie that had such great acting to carry it. Penn, Bardem, Idris Elba, and Ray Winstone are on top of their game but I didn’t think much of Mark Rylance. According to IMDB, Rylance is widely regarded as the greatest stage actor of his generation. That being said, he’s only been in the moving pictures twenty-five times. I didn’t particularly care for him in this so maybe there’s a reason he hasn’t been cast more. The theater could be his glass ceiling, I don’t know. I will probably give him another shot in the Spielberg movie he did that’s coming out next.
“I hear you DJ?”
Besides the acting, there’s a few moments of cool dialogue, the score is good, and the action is great. There’s not nearly enough of it though. I remember hearing one time that an action flick needs a fight every fifteen pages. This is like that except they went every thirty pages. The sniper scene is cool. Sean Penn VS the Somalis is neat (Although I wish he had been a bit more dominant). The shootout at the villa is great. There’s even a sweet knife fight at the end but it’s woefully short and too spread out, much like the overall tone of the film itself. Unlike Run All Night which had a good plot that they built action scenes around, this was either an eighty minute action movie someone tried to add an hour of plot to or an hour forty political drama someone tried to add twenty minutes of action to.
In conclusion, don’t go see this film. People will try and tell you the acting is great… and that’s true. People will try and tell you the action is good… and that’s also true. People will try and tell you that Sean Penn looks great with his shirt off… and that’s definitely true, but it doesn’t come together. If you’re really into acting, rent this movie. If you like good action, Red Box this and skip around. Otherwise it’s a pass. I can honestly say it’s the second best movie I’ve seen that takes place in the Congo though. C-
T-Bagz will pay for dragging Logan to go see The Gunman