FILM by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
of all Luc Besson’s Euro shoot-’em-ups, The Gunman is one of the better ones. Although that’s not exactly high praise considering its peers — the Taken saga, the Transporter franchise, From Paris with Love and Three Days to Kill.
The Gunman at least tries to come off as socially minded. How else could Besson attract left-leaning talents like Sean Penn, Javier Bardem and noted theatre snob Mark Rylance?
But at heart, the film is about as silly and senseless as your average Besson film.
Penn is Jim Terrier, a security supplier for an NGO in the Congo who doubles as a contract killer for multinationals. In the midst of a romantic tryst with a pretty doctor, Jim is hired to kill the Minister of Energy, who’s considering the nationalization of all mines in the country (SOCIAL COMMENTARY ALERT). After the deed is done, Jim obviously has to leave the continent — with a broken heart and a burgeoning case of PTSD.
Years later, as Jim tries to atone for past sins, he discovers the people involved in the assassination are being exterminated, with the exception of two shadowy characters: Cox (Rylance), who’s gone legit, and the client’s liaison (Bardem), who’s now married to Penn’s former love interest.
The action unfolds in an entirely predictable fashion from there. The Gunman’s only significant surprise is the treatment of the main female character, Annie (Jasmine Trinca). While the objectification of women in film isn’t news to anyone, The Gunman actually treats the character as a prop, trading Annie back and forth without even asking her, and Trinca’s role basically comes down to either running or shrieking while being held captive.
Oh, and one character off-handedly implies that Annie was raped by rebels in the Congo without context or follow-up. It’s seriously off-putting.
Penn, meanwhile, makes the best of a mediocre movie and at least manages to keep the audience’s attention. Maybe he’ll become the next Liam Neeson: an aging well-reputed actor who slums in action movies for a quick buck.