I cannot begin to explain how surprised I was by Netflix’s The Gray Man. From the moment I sat in my seat, the formulaic action-thriller managed to grab ahold of my attention and refused to let it waver.
The film begins with a classic “you’re a good guy who did a bad thing but stick with me kid, and you can be free” scene as Ryan Gosling’s ‘Six’ sit across from morally grey CIA senior officer Donald Fitzroy, played by Billy Bob Thorton. From there, we begin a 129 min journey jam-packed with quippy retorts, gratuitous violence and a hail of bullets that leap you chuckling and wiping tears of laughter from your eyes.
That being said, The Gray Man is entirely devoid of substance. Relying instead on predictable story points and cliche troupes to garner an emotional response.
Where Chris Evans’ Lloyd Hansen is the picture of charismatic insanity and ruthlessness, Gosling’s Six has all the depth of a kiddie pool. The film spends its entire showering Six with a hail of bullets, bombs and knife wounds, and in the few moments they let the poor man catch his breath, they try to induce some sort of emotional attachment by forcing a bond between him and Fitzroy’s niece Claire in some dilute form of “Mandofication”.
What was once a beautiful interpretation of the found family troupe popularized by Lucasfilm’s The Mandalorian has been used repeatedly, beating all the significance out of it. The battle-weary man with no family is sent out on assignment, and the task involves a defenceless child. Then miraculously, our warrior’s righteousness wins out, and he forms a bond with the precocious kid and becomes willing to do whatever it takes to keep them safe.
The half-hearted attempt to do the same with Six and Claire (Julia Butters) fails to deliver the same compelling message because it’s drowned out by the action-packed hijinks that make up the bulk of the film.
All in all, The Gray Man is an enjoyable movie for when you want to tune in and tune out. It’s something fun and animated to put on when you’re not too bothered about actually paying attention to the screen.
Keshav Kant, aka Mx. KantEven, is a neuroscience nerd turned Creative Consultant and Executive Director of Off Colour!
You’ve probably seen her on TikTok or caught her work on Off Colour's many channels. From consulting on films & shows, manuscript review, conducting interviews, or hosting podcasts & panels, if there is some way to bring sensitivity and authenticity to diversity, inclusion and equity conversations, Keshav will be there.