Ryan Gosling returns to the big screen for the first time in years in The Gray Man, reportedly the most expensive movie Netflix has ever made. Based on the first in a series of books by Mark Greaney, it follows an off-the-books CIA assassin gone rogue. So did the reported $200 million investment—including salaries for actors Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo of various Marvel movies—pay off? Not according to critics, who give the film a 51% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Here's what they're saying:
- It "feels like a middling studio movie that wasn't worth catching in theaters but that would comfortably fill an afternoon if you stumbled on it airing on cable," writes Alison Willmore at Vulture. As Sierra Six, Gosling proves "interesting" despite "operating in low-power mode." But "the big set pieces are depressingly incoherent." The action sequences "are boosted with sloppy computer-generated work and so little sense of where the characters are in relation to the spaces they're in that there's no tension at all."
- It's "a maximalist action thriller that is almost comically violent, unfailingly glib, and intermittently very fun," with "combat scenes so relentlessly kinetic and busy they make Fight Club feel like Tai Chi," writes Leah Greenblatt at Entertainment Weekly. Evans "seems positively giddy" in the role of main antagonist and torture fan Lloyd Hansen, a mercenary tasked with finding Six. "Against Six's wry cool-guy remove, he's the leering frat-boy jester, pretty much begging to be punched in that perfectly symmetrical face."
- The highlights include "smart uses of reflections, a preposterous but propulsive sequence involving handcuffs and a bench, a solid running gag about the people who keep having to help Six not die, and an underutilized but still effective Ana de Armas doing a lot of very cool fighting," writes Linda Holmes at NPR. But the film itself "feels hollow," without "a narrative engine"—"the moment that provides even the thinnest thread of something else to care about besides killer versus killer."
- It's certainly slick, but all too familiar, writes David Fear at Rolling Stone. "It wants to be your next go-to action-movie series so badly, even if it has to ransack all of your previous favorite action-movie series to do so." Indeed, "you're essentially watching one long, synthesized greatest-hits reel of a genre." Though "it's occasionally a rush," Fear was left wishing it was "tighter, tauter, tougher, better." "It could be," he writes. "It should be."
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