Star Rating:

The Gunman

Director: Pierre Morel

Actors: Mark Rylance, Javier Bardem, Sean Penn

Release Date: Friday 20th March 2015

Genre(s): Action

Running time: 115 minutes

Liam Neeson has a lot to answer for. In just a few short years, Taken has given birth to several copycat films which takes a middle-aged actor with some credentials and turns them into a pumped-up movie marauder. The unfortunate reality, however, is that most of these films have been decidedly sub-par. Even the Taken sequels have failed to live up to the initial promise of the first one.

Sean Penn is Jim Terrier, an ex-Special Forces soldier and security contractor who's ordered by his corporate paymasters to assassinate an honest politician in the Congo. After doing this, he's forced to leave the continent and has been attempting to right his wrongdoing since then. His co-conspirators, Javier Bardem and Wolf Hall's Mark Rylance, have come to terms with their sins by becoming fabulously wealthy, and in one case, stealing Penn's former lover when he left.

However, Penn is soon attacked while working at an NGO site and pieces it together that someone is hunting him. With the help of his stereotypical comrade-in-arms, Ray Winstone, Penn sets off across the globe to try and piece together what's happened. In short, it's a lot of exotic locales and explosions in them.

Director Pierre Morel, who's responsible for starting this whole trend of geri-action, is keen to draw comparisons between himself and Paul Greengrass. Vis a vie, he's shaking the camera. A lot. The frenetic pacing during these action sequences mean that we've barely any idea what exactly is going on. All we know is Sean Penn is beating the crap out of people and he's reasonably good at doing so. The script, however, is laughably poor. Penn chews the scenery as a sad-eyed mercenary who just wants to settle down, but his certain set of skills keep getting him into trouble.

Mark Rylance and Javier Bardem, who are both stunning actors, are reduced to exposition and reminding us how much of a bad-ass Penn's character is. Idris Elba turns up for five minutes as an Interpol agent who's investigating Penn. Much like Rylance and Bardem, he's criminally under-utilised and can't give any credence to the bad scripting. Ray Winstone, as well, has no real arc other than being a friend to Penn. The script, as mentioned, is awful. It's clear that Penn and all concerned were sold on the fact that this would be a densely-plotted international thriller. Instead, all we get is a load of half-baked subplots - one involving some sort of brain injury - and some very fancy locations.

Penn's trying to reinvent himself as an action hero, something he has no experience or truck with. It comes off as unconvincing and, frankly, this whole sub-genre of geri-action is getting tiresome.

Leave well enough alone.