Big Screen :: The Gunman

April 21st 2015

sean penn gunman

I’m totally into Sean Penn and all his ultra-serious grim weirdness.

I love him as an actor and a director, and I respect him for his utter refusal to even attempt the Hollywood game or pretend to be anything other than what he is, which is apparently the grumpiest man to have ever walked the Earth. That way, when he shows up in something like Milk or the totally bananas This Must Be The Place it’s like a revelation.

Therefore it was a bit exciting when, on the side of a bus, I saw that he was going to be in a hitherto unheard-of old-man action movie called The Gunman, co-starring Javier Bardem and Idris Elba. Surely, I thought, Sean Penn would never make some complicated, generic, violent nonsense. Plus, Bardem is super picky and must have seen something in this project, and while Elba was in Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance and that Beyonce movie where the singer got into a fist fight, he’s still a total badass and I was excited to see him bounce off Bardem and Penn. I was wrong: it turns out that I’d probably never heard of this movie purely because it wasn’t very good to the extent that everyone involved probably just wants to forget about it and move on.

This Liam Neeson led sub-genre of old-man action movies exists to provide power fantasies to portly middle-aged men who no one cares about anymore. My dad is pretty portly and he is always complaining that no one listens to him, so I took him along to The Gunman, and guess what? He totally loved it, so maybe I’m right. Anyway, these movies always contain a sequence where some punk kids dismiss the old guy and goad him into an explosive reaction in which he kicks some guy’s balls back up inside him and tears out another guy’s throat. I thought Sean Penn would be above this, but nope; in The Gunman, he’s eye-gouging and head-stabbing with the best of them, strutting around with his shirt off and displaying his disturbingly wrinkled yet muscled torso. It was a sad sight to see.


Sean Penn and Idris Elba share a look in The Gunman.

Penn co-wrote this nonsense because I suspect he thought he could smuggle some politics into it and deliver a message to people like my dad, but on this score he failed. Dad walked out of The Gunman as pumped as my friend’s seven-year-old kid when I took him along to watch Thor 2; neither of them understood the plot of the movie they’d just watched but both had the worrying glint of imminent violence in their eyes. I could see Dad afterwards considering bashing the guy at the parking garage who couldn’t find his ticket, though mercifully he held off. The seven-year-old on the other hand punched me right in the guts before we had even left the cinema and then did a flying jump kick into a bin full of popcorn – the point is that the same part of their brains was engaged.

What was I talking about? Oh, right, the plot! It’s about multinational corporations hiring mercenaries to manipulate politics in developing nations to boost their profits. While it’s a cool thing to make a movie about, it’s pretty toothless and the action is poorly shot and badly edited, and it’s made by the same guy that made Taken, a movie that I hated. Mostly, though, it was just boring. Bardem’s character adds nothing to the movie and Elba is similarly wasted. The moral of the story is that if the first time you hear of a movie is from the side of a bus, then you should probably skip it.


Get Big Screen podcasts



Big Screen :: The Fast & The Furious 7

Big Screen :: Inherent Vice

Big Screen :: The Interview

Big Screen :: Birdman



Read more from FBi Radio