when gray rhymes with boredom

Spies, explosions but above all disappointment, the new action film from Netflix signed by the Russo Brothers lacks color. Critical.

To adapt the work of Mark Greaney, Netflix has spent lavishly. With a substantial budget of $200 millionthe N rouge offered the crème de la crème to produce a sizeable film. Behind the camera, we find the Russo brothers coming to lend a hand to the streaming platform after four notorious films at Marvel. In front of their lens, a five-star cast comes to play spies, CIA agents and other American organizations in an explosive action scenario.

With Ryan Gosling as Sierra Sixa jailbird hired by the CIA to do the agency’s dirty work and Chris Evans as a big bad guy, as much to say that Netflix has an extraordinary duo here (especially after the good Samaritan image of Evans at Marvel). Other big names like Ana de Armas (blade runner 2049), Alfred Woodart (Annabelle) or even René-Jean Page (The Bridgerton Chronicle) come to offer their acting talent in this manhunt film under cover of government corruption. Unfortunately, good actors are not enough to save a shaky writing and the foundations of The Gray Man have nothing to envy to the Tower of Pisa.

Screenshot from the movie The Gray Man during the fireworks scene
© Netflix

Vivid action scenes

Before attacking the film on its many flaws, it is worth talking about its strengths. Or rather, its asset, since it is the only rather positive point of the set offered here by Netflix. The Gray Man is an action film, and the public therefore expects a real spectacle in front of this title produced by regulars of the genre. And on this side, the work of the Russo brothers has some good surprises in store.

Indeed, the journey of Gosling’s character is strewn with pitfalls, and he then finds himself in improbable situations. Assassination under New Year’s fireworks, bodyguard babysitting or arrest of a crazy tram in the streets of Prague, the job of a (very) secret agent offers its daily dose of adrenaline. The game of the camera and the various transitions allow sequences rather satisfying and worthy of the genre. The special effects are also correct, usually what Netflix offers for this kind of project.

Screenshot of The Gray Man during the crazy tram scene
© Netflix

Certain moments also make very good use of the sound and the overall sound environment to succeed in capturing a little more the attention of the spectators and creating surprise as the action ensues. However, while these scenes meet our expectations in terms of spectacle, they are far too few for everyone to get their fill. The fight choreographies are also to be deplored, with few physical confrontations generating enough tension. The film wants to offer a great show but struggles to find a correct rhythm and sufficient density.

The Gray Man struggles to find the right mix of early morning napalm orgy and bureaucratic headache. If action should not essentially rhyme with explosion, it is necessary to find other artifices to avoid drowsiness. This is undoubtedly where the main flaw of The Gray Man : an unbalanced balance between down-to-earth entertainment and slow-paced investigative storytelling. Result: gray too often rhymes with boredom.

A half-hearted scenario

Some would say that an action movie doesn’t need a good script to be an example of its genre, and that’s true. We could cite many films that have marked the spirits, and whose screenwriters probably do not deserve an Oscar. Despite everything, a work must respect a certain balance that The Gray Man can’t find. Uneven and sorely lacking in rhythm, the narration summons many schemes and clichés of the genre without ever succeeding in hatching a sufficiently addictive entertainment. The fault is undoubtedly a desire on the part of the platform to tick all the boxes for success.

© Netflix

Netflix productions look more and more like jumbles of diverse inspiration, the data of an algorithm that brings together all the vectors of commercial success. The red N has accustomed us to worse, we come out of it almost relieved. But the stakes of the scenario adapted by Joe Russo are not enough to keep us in suspense. Indeed, the narrative constructions are so hackneyed that it is very difficult to really worry and be moved for the whole gallery of characters.

The structure of the film also poses problems on the side of the rate of narration. A slew of flashbacks attempt to bring us closer to Ryan Gosling’s character, but even these essential developmental elements come to disturb the film’s already wavering pace. The emotional bond with the cast is rather weak, and this flagrant lack of stake both in the narration and in the relationship to the characters is lacking in the blockbuster that The Gray Man would like to be.

Right to its conclusion, the story proves predictable and continually adds a new layer of almost laughable unease. The serious scenes lose their force as the moments of respite turn in circles.

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