The gray man: Look at all the pretty colors!
Netflix dropped $200 million for its latest star-studded CG extravaganza The gray man. That’s $40 million more than the studio created for the also effects-focused Scorsese The Irishman, making it the most expensive film to debut on their living room multiplex. The reviews were harmful, but that didn’t deter fans of Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, the Marvel prodigy whose follow-up sequels to Captain America: The Winter Soldier desecrated the only bright star in the otherwise dull extragalactic buildup that is the MCU.
The gray man (2022)
Despite the small-screen streaming giant’s hemorrhagic subscribers, it saw the 5th biggest opening in Netflix history. But considering how I’ve been weaned on a galaxy of Chicago’s best single screens, I can’t understand why anyone would want to watch a film that relies so much on visual effects on a 100-inch box. If I had just turned 18, and with a freshly minted driver’s license in my wallet, I would have been there on day one, first show. As it stands, the film has debuted on a limited release in remote locations, and with gas prices topping $6 a gallon, a 65-mile round trip to Del Mar to see the latest abomination of the cinema by the boys responsible for The Avengers wasn’t supposed to be. To learn more about this dumb comic book movie under another name, the adventure continues online.
The film is based on the book by Mark Greany, the best-selling thriller author who took over the Jack Ryan franchise with the blessing of the late Tom Clancy. But screenwriters Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely whittle down the novelist’s pulpy tale of good assassin vs. bad assassin to something more suited to 60# matte paper. We open in a federal prison, with an exchange between former CIA agent/convicted murderer Six (Ryan Gosling, contemptuous) and his handler Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton). There’s a big difference between minimalism and three screenwriters eager to set a plot in motion that draws viewers into a world with nothing new. (Why Six? Because 007 was spoken.) Despite all we learn about these two, Tarantino’s throwaway dialogue – most of which centers around watermelon chewing gum – might as well have been provided. by word bubbles. All we need to know is that Six is a highly respected killing machine whose life sentence will be commuted in exchange for a lifetime commitment to kill on behalf of Old Glory.
When letting the images do the talking proves insurmountable, it is better to write secondary characters who cannot keep their mouths shut. (Alan Ladd was a terrible actor, but in the right film noir lighting and with a lack of dialogue, he could come across as quite menacing.) Six’s first mission is to shoot a bad guy through two stories of glass ceilings. It’s a feat that makes one wonder how much better it would have been if it had been played on a team-built scale soundboard rather than in a guy-designed pixel miasma sitting in front. a bank of computer screens. Like most hitmen, Six has a moral compass that prohibits him from murdering children. His target, simply known as Quatre, is one of their own. (Do the math.) Leave it to Quatre to always have a youngster by his side to act as a shield in case bullets fly. Quatre dies, but not before giving Six an encrypted thumb drive that could end civilization as we know it, or some such nonsense.
The supporting cast didn’t come cheap. It usually takes a professional killer to take out a mercenary, hence the presence of Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans, nothing special), another former CIA agent who suffers from more than a hint of psychosis. Hansen is the guy who’s erudite enough to quote Schopenhauer, but let Fitzroy use the word “supernatural” to describe him, and it’s a slap in the face. Rather than using pliers to relieve Fitzroy of his fingernails, a more appropriate punishment would have been to rip out the wet cotton candy topknot – easily the worst of his career. Six is aided by co-worker Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas), whose primary function is to take down bad guys while draped in the latest androgynous paraphernalia. His contributions to the proceedings are negligible at best, especially in light of Suzanne Brewster (Jessica Henwick), the agent assigned to deal with Six. She manages to outrun (and outrun) de Armas at every turn. What the movie didn’t need was the presence of Fitzroy’s niece, Claire (Julia Butters, or is that Addison Timlin?). Orphaned and struggling with a heart condition, the teenager’s only contribution to the plot is to serve as a kidnapping victim.
Contrary to its title, the film bleeds with color. It’s no surprise Stephen F. Windon, the man in charge of the rack and pinion camera, has six (not 007) Fast and Furious suites to his credit. Add to that Henwick’s under-rating and I’ll be generous in giving it a one-star rating.