Netflixable? Breaking the bank with Ryan and The Russos — “The Gray Man”

If “The Gray Man” does nothing else, Netflix’s latest blank-check action thriller is going rock the worlds of legions of Marvelettes, those fanatics who have been whining about the latest “Doctor Strange” and “Thor” on Twitter because, as one wag put it, the acclaimed directors behind them “didn’t make me cry” and “didn’t have the depth of story” of — you know — the Russo Brothers’ many Marvel outings.

W.T.F?

Imagine staring, slack-jawed as the “Gray” credits roll, and realizing for the first time, “Wait, the Russos suck?”

Yes, some have been blinded by the Spandex, by all those comic book heroes playing together like Superfriends, by famous actors who all “stick the superhero landing.” Take those bomb-proof trappings away and the Russos can still stage an over-the-top action beat — a decent fight, a pretty-good digitally-augmented chase adhering to the laws of Bugs Bunny Physics.

But man, “The Gray Man” is one seriously stupid movie. It’s so hackneyed it’s like the Russos are trying to parody hackneyed, blowing their own punchlines as they do.

Still, they got Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Evans’ “Knives Out” co-star Ana de Armas, Billy Bob and Alfre and a pretty good Indian action star, Dhanush (“Karan”) for it, so it can’t be all bad.

I mean, staging a couple of slaughter scenes to the 50 year old pop hit “Silver Bird” is a reminder than only James Gunn should have access to the action cinema cheese tray. And the globe-trotting “plot” is so embarrassing that “novelist” Mark Greaney should take his Netflix millions and flee the country.

Aside from that, though…

Gosling plays an imprisoned murderer recruited to be a “Gray Man,” a CIA assassin, because he’s already killed somebody. What’s a few dozen more to him?

He is “Six,” as in “Watch your six,” or because “Double-O-seven was taken.”

Billy Bob Thornton plays his recruiter, the guy who’s retired years later when our “Gray Man” is ordered to pull the trigger, and doesn’t. “Collateral” damage has entered the room.

“You’re closed for collateral. GO LOUD. Stay the plan!”

That’s the tone of half of the dialogue, “wet work” jargon, “COS” (Chief of CIA Station) acronyms and the like. The other half? Strained jokes, some of which land.

“You know what makes me sad?” “Your small hands?”

Billy Bob speaks for us all when he passes judgement on the film’s tough-guy-banter-generator.

“I get it. You’re glib.”

The MacGuffin here is a SIM card with incriminating evidence of misdeeds and treason, which the target of a hit gives to Six and Six won’t hand over to his sketchy supervisor (“Bridgerton’s” Regé-Jean Page). That’s when the CIA calls in an independent contractor.

Lloyd Hansen (Evans) is the sort of guy who does his torturing in Monaco, who quotes Arthur Schopenhauer mid-torture because the famed German pessimist “saw the value of suffering.”

“Hand the jumper cables to somebody else,” he’s ordered. “Get ‘it’ back. Make ‘him’ gone.”

Lloyd hunts Six. Lloyd kidnaps Six’s recruiter (Thornton) and the old recruiter’s infirm niece (Julia Butters), the one who loves “Silver Bird.” Six’s colleague Miranda (de Armas) shows up, every now and then, to save his bacon.

Asia to Eastern Europe, Bangkok and Baku to Prague, Vienna and scenic Croatia, the hunt is on, with hunters hunting a hunter and the hunted having his own ideas about that.

The fights? There’s the opening act to-the-death wrestle in the middle of a New Year’s Eve fireworks rocket-launching pad, a mid-air melee on a military cargo jet, a throw-down on a Viennese tram and an oddly perfunctory punch-out with a Tamil assassin (Dhanush) that ends because the plot needs it to end and heck, they want this Netflix movie to play in India.

Six MacGuyver’s his way out of one trap, but a lot of his escapes and “How’d he get theres?” are skipped over just to plunge into the next action beat.

There’s one decent chase, the one that puts him on that tram, and one graceful moment, provided by Alfre Woodard which the Russos are hackneyed enough to try and repeat later.

Some of the third act mayhem does get the old pulse racing, and Gosling and Evans are perfectly capable of handling what is intended as a cool catch-phrase or punchline.

“You must be Lloyd.”

“What gave me away?”

“The white pants. The trash ‘stache.'”

Whenever Six is in need of a change of disguise, those strangers willing or unwilling to part with their threads hear the same line.

“You must be a…42 Regular?”

There are enough fun bits here to stream “The Gray Man,” maybe as background noise, only worth your attention now and again. And there are so very many soulless, head-slapping moments that one can’t help but think, “It must be time to pause (or cancel) Netflix again.”

Rating: PG-13, endless violence

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, Regé-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick and Dhanush.

Credits: Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, scripted by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on a novel by Mark Greaney. A Netflix release.

Running time: 2:09

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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1 Response to Netflixable? Breaking the bank with Ryan and The Russos — “The Gray Man”

  1. One thing about this movie particularly annoyed me: the fight scenes were so over-cut that there was no cohesion to the action AT ALL. Most fight scene shots contained no more than two movements, if that. This rendered them completely disjointed, boring and pointless.

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