PG-13 for swearing (including an f-bomb) and ultraviolence. Tonally, the movie feels more like a PG-13 movie than anything else. But if you go beat-by-beat, there's a lot of R-rated stuff. Torture is a regular thing in this movie. One of the main characters has his fingernails removed on camera (kind of. It's fun editing.) Also, the scale of death in this movie is something to behold, particularly for a PG-13 movie.
DIRECTORS: Joe and Anthony Russo
Okay, this blog might lose all cohesion. I'm rearranging my schedule to accommodate for a visit from my mom. She should have been here half-an-hour ago, but she tends to overexaggerate about timetables. Normally, I would workout, then write. But it is very hard to workout knowing that someone might be at the door any minute. So I'm going to write first because I technically can stop this at any time. Aren't you glad to be invested in the boring process of writing?
How did this movie score so low with audiences or critics? I will honestly wait. I know that a bunch of people have seen this movie. Like, it made waves. It triggered my FOMO pretty hard. When my wife suggested that we watched it, I didn't even question it for a second. That was going to be on the bill for that night. It's not that it is a perfect movie. Oh, heck no it's not a perfect movie. But do you know what it is? It's a Ryan Gosling versus Chris Evans directed by the Russo Brothers movie. And do you know how it came out? Exactly as described. I was promised a handful of things and it delivered on all fronts. How are people upset about this? I mean, it was better than expected. If I had any complaints, it was just that Ryan Gosling shouldn't have fought Chris Evans hand-to-hand at the end. A shot from a sniper rifle would have made oodles of more sense. Sure, it would have been a cop-out, considering that the whole movie was inching these two characters closer to each other until the inevitable fight. But I would have taken the sniper shot.
I suppose that people might be past Jason Bourne. Can we all call a spade-a-spade? (My students call me out for overusing that idiom.) This is a Bourne Identity movie without the memory loss. There is this big underground CIA world that is both similar to what the real CIA is like and completely absurd that is the invention of Hollywood. Sure, I don't know enough about real Black Ops to comment comfortably on what the real world of spycraft looks like, but this movie screams over-the-top. It's meant to. But why have we lost interest in these kinds of movies? I acknowledge that I'm not the biggest Jason Bourne guy. I have always been more of a James Bond man myself. But this is one of those action movies that intentionally pulls the glamour out of assassination and makes it seem grim and dark. You know, like the Daniel Craig James Bond movies.
But what makes something like this special? (Note: I got a workout in. No need to worry.) I can't necessarily say that it has to do with the back story. If anything, a very thin backstory to this movie actually helps it. Like the OG Predator (btw, I did watch Prey and will be writing about that given a chance), there's something very fun about not knowing too much. It's not like the Russos left us completely in the dark. We do know exactly what put Six in prison, but it's not belabored. Six isn't Bruce Wayne. We don't need to watch the metaphorical pearls roll down Crime Alley. We have a brief flashback with a bit of narration showing young Six choosing to kill his abusive dad. The movie wasn't about abuse. It's not like he had to flashback to that moment time and again. We know that he got into this Suicide Squad as a noble heart. He wasn't out for himself. He was presented with a no-win scenario and he chose the better of two options. But that's not the story.
Instead, the movie assumes that we can figure out things through context clues. The notion that the Sierra program was some kind of elite Suicide Squad is something that we all took a shortcut to. The same thing is true with Lloyd Hansen. We're told that Hansen is a sociopath who washed out of the CIA in record time. Instead of beating us over the head with the details of Hansen's mental illness, we get all of that from Chris Evans's performance. He takes joy in the actions he does in the present. I actually applaud the Russos giving Evans something to play with. I remember the roles that Evans took before Captain America: The First Avenger. I'm talking about stuff like The Losers or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. (You know, other comic book properties?) He just seemed like he was having so much more fun and then he became America's moral big brother. (I know you wanted me to say, "Dad", but he still seems so young to me.)
Maybe the only thing that I didn't really care about was Claire. Claire is perfectly fine. I know that there's nothing wrong with her performance. But the inclusion of a sick kid as the Macguffin didn't really need to exist. Somewhere in this story is the story of choosing one's father. Sure, it's an idea that keeps on showing up in movies like this. We all tease Vin Diesel in The Fast and the Furious for being so obsessed with chosen family. But if Six killed his dad because he was going to beat his brother to death, Fitzroy becomes his new dad. In that comes a moral question. Fitzroy treats Six with a sense of respect. As much as Six needs a healthy male figure in his life, perhaps there's deceit there. After all, Sierra Four is targeted by Carmichael and eliminated because the Sierra Program has become too much of a liability. When Fitz has his back to a wall, he sells Six out. Say what you will about Six's abilities, the entire scenario that he was in should have killed him. The odds were completely stacked against him and against all reasonable logic, he survived. What if the story was about the nature of parents versus self-interest?
It's just that I don't get much of a connection between Six and Claire. There's a backstory that quickly showed that the two grew close in almost a montage. It never necessarily showed closeness, but more of an understanding. So what we get instead is a watered down Fitzroy story and a watered-down Claire story. Honestly, that's all fine. It's because I choose to be hard on the movie for the sake of objectivity that I point it out. But I think a more well-rounded Fitzroy story might have done more for the sake of storytelling. Maybe the Russos knew that they had to kill Fitzroy. Also, it's based on a book, so maybe there are elements that are vital to the franchise. Oh, I didn't mention that this was going to be a franchise? Say what you will about reviews, Netflix knows how to greenlight things.
I'm running out of time and things to say. It doesn't hurt that I cut something short once in a while. The Gray Man is a better movie than people make it out to be. It's exactly what I wanted it to be. Sure, it's flawed. But it's also an action movie. If you are in it to have a good time, that's what the movie offers.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.