HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:78
I was gung ho for “The Gunman” from the minute I heard that Pierre Morel was given the director’s chair. Pierre Morel is most well-known for directing one of the best action movies in the last 15 years, also happening to star an aging man who was never really seen as the “action” star before. This little gem happens to be “Taken”, one of my favorite action movies and a testament to all that is awesome and right in the action movie genre (especially MODERN action movies, which have been softened up way too much for my tastes). My only bit of trepidation had to do with Sean Penn as the lead character. I’m not a wild fan of Sean, but he IS a fantastic actor. My only qualm had to do with the fact that Sean Penn’s preachy humanitarian nature has gotten the better of himself in the last decade and it has seeped into his characters with annoying frequency. “The Gunman” isn’t a perfect film, but some of my fears were well founded, and some of my delights in having Pierre Morel at the helm were realized.
Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is a private security specialist working in the Congo on contract. While there he’s made a romantic liaison with a beautiful foreign aid worker, named Annie (Jasmine Trinca) who is dedicating her life to the betterment of third world countries. This is all thrown to the wind when he is given a mission to pull the trigger in a hit on the Republic of Congo’s minister of Mining. The hit goes without a hitch, but the civilian operative working for those who ordered the hit, Felix (Javier Bardem), has ordered the trigger man off continent so the heat can dissipate on the situation. 8 years later Jim has never returned, as his life has become ruined. Wracked with guilt over the blood on his hands, he hasn’t had the never to go back and face Annie, and spends his time on humanitarian projects working for the betterment of 3rd world countries, much like Annie does. He’s back in the Congo once more and suddenly he’s specifically targeted by the indigenous mercenaries. Realizing that the only tie to the Congo mercs and himself was that last hit on the minister of mining, Jim reaches out to his old handler, Cox (Mark Rylance).
Cox is just as confused by the situation as he is, which leaves Jim to hunt down the only civilian who had knowledge of the hit, Felix. Flying out to Barcelona where Felix resides, Jim is confronted with two life altering realizations. One, he suffers from a bought of nausea and dizziness that puts him in the doctor’s office who diagnoses him with concussive force trauma from his years of dealing with explosions and the like. A condition that will only get worse if he’s around that type of action in the future, and the second being that once he gets to Spain, he is once again face to face with Annie. Only this time she’s married to Felix, the man who he charged with taking care of her while he was gone. Felix himself seems to be a changed man too. Gone is his air of help, and in its place is a cocky man who fears Jim will come to take Annie from him. Things go south quick as Felix is hiding more than he lets on and Jim and Annie are forced to hit the deck as the mercs that haunted Jim in the Congo are hot on their trail and show no signs of giving up. Now he has to keep Annie alive while trying to outwit the swarm of mercs who show no signs of giving up, AND somehow find out WHO is behind the whole deal.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=48410[/img]I wanted to like “The Gunman” more than I did. That’s not to say that the movie is a bad movie, as it most definitely is not, but Pierre Morel’s beautiful action style is hampered by a thick layer of guilt. I hate to say that I dislike humanitarian efforts in a film, or the study of how the sins of the past come to haunt the future, as there are a TON of films that have these messages woven throughout that don’t feel as awkward as “The Gunman” does. Sean Penn is famed for his humanitarian efforts, as well as famed for taking on roles in the last decade that push that agenda quite heavily, which is why I was not surprised when these messages came through loud and clear throughout the movie. Jim Terrier is a man haunted by his past, dealing with enormous guilt over all the blood on his hands over a lifetime of military and paramilitary work. Couple that with him actually working for an NGO in his later life as well as dating a woman who was involved in that lifestyle as well. This is all well and good, but Pierre Morel also tries to blend in hard hitting “Taken” style action to the picture and the end result feels off as bloody violence butts heads with humanitarian efforts. I hate to say it, but it just sounds preachy. Too much of an effort was made to make all the characters feel guilty than was necessary.
The good side is that the action scenes are simply stunning. Pierre really knows how to put together a good fight scene, and even though he still uses some of the quick cuts that he used in “Taken”, they are actually done judiciously and look REALLY good. The fight between Jim and the head of the merc group in the bull fighting building is nothing short of an exhilarating work of art. The gunfights and the hand to hand combat is just choreographed beautifully throughout and I was left marveling at every action set piece. My biggest disappointment in the film was “what could have been”. Had the movie tried to be one or the other, I might have definitely liked it more than I did, but the blending of a guilt filled humanitarian message as well as a mindless action fest left me feeling a little frustrated. Both pieces were well done, but putting them together felt a bit like oil and water, giving us a 50/50 mixture that doesn’t feel whole.
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=48418[/img]“The Gunman” comes to Blu-ray disc with a stellar 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer that is simply magnificent. Shot digitally, the movie never appears too glossy or smooth, but actually look rather earthy and natural with exquisite detail throughout and superb colors. The color grading is kind of a honey color with blue undertones, but this doesn’t mar or degrade the picture quality in any way, but gives it a sort of “third world” look (to put it roughly) to the movie. Fine detail is excellent, showing off all the lines and stretch marks on Sean Penn’s aging, but still jacked, body and showing every rock and piece of shrapnel in the copious amount of action scenes. Black levels stay inky and deep as can be, with no apparent crush and solid shadow detailing. I didn’t notice any banding or other compression artifacts on the disc, so this definitely gets a solid two thumbs up.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=48426[/img]Oh boy, that’s all I really have to say after listening to the stunning Atmos track. Whether you are listening to the actual object based Atmos track, or the core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track I honestly don’t think you are going to be disappointed in any way shape or form. The experience is simply incredibly as the immersive nature of the audio just pulls you into the movie. The dialog is clean and clear, free of any abnormalities, but it is the surrounds and LFE and just plain perfect detailing of the audio that makes this one superb. The surrounds are used at all times with heavy usage, ranging from simple ambient noises that are each distinctly audible, even at low volume, all the way up to bullets flying by your ear and shrapnel bouncing off the wall behind you after a grenade goes off. Each and every bullet fired in the movie has an incredible LFE weight behind it and what makes them unique is that every bullet fired has its own audio “signature” so to speak. Each bullet sounds incredibly unique and different, and even the different bullets fired from the same gun change in pitch and “texture” as the terrain changes. LFE is deep and powerful, setting my subs on fire every time a gun fired or an incendiary device goes off. My jaw was on the floor the entire time as I heard details coming through my SEOS speakers that I hadn’t heard in recent films in quite some time. To put it simply, this is an amazing track from beginning to end.
“The Gunman” is not as bad as some of the critical reviews made it out to be, in my opinion, but it still was nowhere as good as it COULD have been. It wandered a bit, it felt about 20 minutes too long and the preaching is the real thorn in its side. Had it not been for the humanitarian/sins of the past preaching I would have enjoyed it much more as a mindless action flick, something Pierre Morel did to perfection with “Taken”. Still, the video is excellent and the audio is in a league all its own, so if you’re interested in checking it out, it will still very much be a solid rental. I did enjoy myself despite the flaws and think it worthy of watching at least once.
Starring: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Javier Bardem
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Written by: Jean-Patrick Manchette (Novel), Don MacPherson (Screenplay)
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio:English: Dolby Amos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core)
Runtime: 116 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 30th 2015
Buy The Gunman On Blu-ray at Amazon
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