If there’s one part of the entertainment industry that Netflix has yet to crack, it’s building an original and truly exciting movie franchise.
The streaming giant has had relative success with a number of its own movie series, but most fit right into the oft-belittled rom-com genre – The Princess Switch, Tall Girl, and The Kissing Booth are three such examples.
The Gray Man: Important Information
– Limited theatrical release in the US and UK on July 15
– Launches worldwide on Netflix on July 22
– Directed by the Russo . brothers
– Stars Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas and Regé-Jean Page among other A-list stars
– Based on Mark Greaney’s spy thriller series
– Possibly the first entry in The Gray Man movie franchise
Other hit Netflix movies — Red Notice, Army of the Dead, Extraction, Enola Holmes, and The Old Guard — may have sequels green-lit by the streamer. However, it’s unclear whether any of this quintet can support a movie franchise in the long run.
The Gray Man, Netflix’s latest big-budget film, has the potential to do just that. With 11 novels (and there are more) to draw from in Mark Greaney’s thriller series, a sizable all-star cast and veteran Marvel film directors in the Russo brothers at the helm, The Gray Man has the ingredients it needs. to become Netflix’s first truly exciting movie franchisee.
However, a Gray Man movie series depends on how strong the gambit is – so, is it good? In short: yes. The Gray Man is an entertaining and explosive action-espionage thriller that finally makes good use of Netflix’s “cash is no object” blueprint. Of course, the plot lacks originality – viewers who consume mostly spy-based content won’t find anything new here. But The Gray Man makes up for its somewhat formulaic story with thrilling, high-octane action, stunning cinematography, and a thriving cast who enjoy the complexity of their characters.
I spy with my little eye
In The Gray Man, Ryan Gosling plays as Court Gentry, aka Sierra Six, a CIA agent (and the titular “Gray Man”) who carries out covert missions for the United States’ main counterintelligence agency.
During an assignment in Bangkok, however, Gentry uncovers a dark secret – one that relates to a key CIA operative in Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page). Gentry refuses to hand over the sensitive data to his superiors, including Suzanne Brewer (Jessica Henwick), and goes on the run from the organization he works for. To stop Gentry from leaking compromising data, Carmichael and Brewer turn to the sociopathic and menacing Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a private sector hitman and ex-participant in the Sierra program, to lead the hunt for Gentry’s head.
With few allies to call on, Gentry enlists the help of fellow CIA agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) and former Sierra program director Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) to evade his pursuers. . Play a comprehensive, world-renowned cat-and-mouse game that puts Gentry, Hansen, and the skills, determination, physicality, and morality of Gentry, Hansen, and everyone else to the test.
If that synopsis sounds like a cut-and-paste job from any number of spy-centered movies, it’s largely because it is. The Bourne series, Salt, Atomic Blonde, and some entries in the James Bond franchise are centered around a similar, primary story of a government agent who becomes a state fugitive. In that sense, The Gray Man’s overarching plot is uninspired and ticks every conventional story beat on the checklist for the spy movie genre.
Sure, as the stakes increase exponentially over the two-hour runtime, The Gray Man becomes an entertaining watch. However, if you’re looking for a movie that undermines your expectations of the spy genre, or introduces a new way to tell a story focused on the world of espionage, you might be disappointed.
What makes The Gray Man a compelling watch, however, is its cast of likeable and obnoxious characters.
First, Gosling is an inspired choice for the lead role of Gentry/Sierra Six. Gosling’s pleasing mix of charisma, stoicism and enigmatism makes Gentry recognizable and a modern take on the classic action hero formula. Flashbacks to Gentry’s life pre-Sierra program humanize him in a way that other spy movies sometimes don’t with their protagonists; backstory elements that explain Gentry’s motives and actions to viewers without getting the film caught up in unnecessary character exposure.
Once the main plot of the film kicks in, Gosling’s Gentry spends a fair amount of time working with Miranda van de Armas, who, despite the Armas’ growing status, is somewhat underused, at least in the film’s opening stages. With Gosling and Evans – more about him in just a second – as the film’s protagonists, De Armas’s Miranda periodically takes a back seat in the proceedings. Sure, the Armas gets her share of the best action moments—she plays an important and crowd-pleasing role in the film’s final act—and funny one-liners. But given De Armas’ acting talents, it’s a bit of a shame that she is occasionally relegated to the background.
Yet Miranda’s reason for helping Gentry, combined with her moral compass pointing in the same direction as his, make them a formidable duo. Still, it’s clear they haven’t worked together much before, with Gentry and Miranda’s partnership occasionally being dysfunctional. That’s not a bad thing from the audience’s perspective, though, as the episodic breakdown in communication between the pair makes for some of the film’s more humorous moments.
Page and Henwick enjoy their roles as the morally gray and sinister duo of Carmichael and Brewer. The former stars of Bridgerton and Matrix Resurrections are clearly enjoying the chance to play individuals who are far removed from the “white knight” characters they played in previous productions – and it certainly shows. Meanwhile, Thornton’s Fitzroy and Julia Butters’ Claire Fitzroy are equally fun to watch, even if, in the latter’s case, her inclusion is only as a routine plot device that propels the story forward.
However, it is Evans who is the real star of The Gray Man. This isn’t the first time the former Captain America actor has played a villain — he’s done the same in projects like Knives Out and Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Still, Evans’ Hansen is a filthy piece of work and Evans loves portraying someone less fair than Cap or the Buzz Lightyear movie version in the Pixar universe.
Every time the cold, calculating and menacing Hansen appears on screen, he elevates the scene and the people around him. Whether it’s his sociopathic tendencies taking center stage in a torture scene, or the constant display of arrogance that keeps him from his mission to take down Gentry, Evans’ Hansen is a joy to watch. His sarcastic remarks, usually directed at Henwick’s Brewer, will no doubt provoke a lot of laughter. Meanwhile, the chemistry between Gosling and Evans’ characters makes for a tense viewing experience as they share screen time. Their rare encounters are certainly memorable, which makes it all the more frustrating that they don’t run into each other more often in the story.
Thrill, spill and cars
While The Gray Man’s plot isn’t up to much, the same can’t be said about the action sequences.
Making the most of Netflix’s sizable production budget, the Russo brothers deliver countless creative spectacles as Gentry Hansen tries to evade the CIA and every mercenary on the planet. Battles between Gentry and his pursuers are intense and frenetic affairs, with them refusing to stop or breathe until something important happens on screen.
Gosling’s Gentry goes through the wringer several times, but like any great cop, he has a talent and artistic flair to get himself out of a tough spot.
Whether it’s using flares as makeshift smoke screens and weapons during a breathtaking array of military cargo planes, escaping from a temporary prison cell, or using his environment to help him align his shots, Gentry’s Sierra training clearly has its merits. paid off. It’s clear that every set piece in The Gray Man, no matter how big or small, has been meticulously planned by the Russos, as well as the film’s stunt choreographers, cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, and other production departments. The film’s action sequences are satisfyingly realistic – no matter how authentic you can be to a spy thriller – and heighten the tension with each passing set piece.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for The Gray Man’s somewhat sloppy CGI and green screen technology. A few scenes, particularly the military cargo plane and tram battle scenes, feel amateurish, with certain VFX shots not up to the standard you’d expect from a movie of this size. Given The Gray Man’s reported budget of $200 million, you’d expect better in these situations.
In any case, the cinematography is up to par; the film’s compelling, soaring and swinging camerawork captures the majesty of the film’s multiple locations and stylistic fight scenes. Although, if you hate the Russo brothers’ tendency to fill the screen with giant words when a new location pops up as part of the plot, you might want to brace yourself before hitting play on The Gray Man.
The Gray Man doesn’t reinvent the spy thriller movie genre – there are no seismic shocks from a plot perspective, plus there are a few production and narrative quirks that prevent it from being a top-tier spy movie. But thanks to its talented cast, compelling action, and pleasing cinematography, it’s still a captivating and thrilling film that must live up to audiences’ expectations.
There are plenty of loose threads to pick up in a sequel or two – or more, if viewers really want The Gray Man turned into a franchise. At the same time, The Gray Man’s standalone story will allow some to watch it, decide it’s not for them, and not bother with watching future episodes. That is, if Netflix gives the green light.
Pre-review reactions to The Gray Man positioned it as a James Bond meeting The Fast and the Furious, and it’s hard to argue with that. Like those franchises, The Gray Man is a movie that you can enjoy without using your brain to the fullest. A blockbuster-style summer movie you can stream from the comfort of your own home, The Gray Man is worth your time — and how many times have we been able to say that about one of Netflix’s original movie deals?
The Gray Man hits select theaters in the US and UK starting Friday, July 15. The film will also be released worldwide on Netflix on Friday, July 22.