The Gunman is directed by Pierre Morel (Taken (2008)) and is based on a 1981 novel called The Prone Gunman written by Jean-Patrick Manchette. In this adaptation Sean Penn stars as Jim Terrier, a private security contractor, who is part of a team out in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) protecting charitable non-governmental organisations (NGOs). They also have a lucrative sideline in assassinations, one of which comes back to bite the team years down the line.
The film turned out to be much better than I expected. It’s a story about geopolitics and the role corporations play in corruption and creating instability in Third World nations but told in a personal way through the Terrier character. I had seen a lot of negativite reactions to The Gunman in online reviews and while I understand some of the points this film is a masterpiece when compared to Wild Card (2015) that I had watched 24 hours earlier. The reason why I enjoyed the film was the performance of Sean Penn and the rounded character that had been created for him.
Without giving too much away his actions have consequences which he has to face up to from almost the beginning. The ware and tear on his body has finally caught up with him and he has to write important things down so he doesn’t forget them. This creates a weakness which makes Terrier more human and vulnerable. You never know when he is going to be struck down by his ailment and his constant note taking is made to work for and against him at different points in the film. The film also boasts a strong supporting cast that includes Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Idris Elba and Mark Rylance.
Sadly not everything is sweetness and light in The Gunman. There is an ill judged love triangle involving Terrier and Bardem’s character, Felix, that doesn’t need to be there. We already have reason to root for this guy, don’t force it. The film lacks any great surprises not helped by the directors need to conspicuously focus on things that will reappear shortly to affect the action. As a regular film goer I’m already looking for the thing falling out the pocket, you don’t need to follow it all the way to the ground, I’m already there.
The movie is solid entertaining stuff and in my opinion deserves a better reception from the Critics. If only he’d developed a a special set of skills … My rating 3/5.