The Gray Man, a Netflix original film, is directed by the Russo brothers, who also directed Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans star as dueling CIA mercenaries whose paths collide after incriminating evidence falls into Gosling’s character’s hands.
While it is clear that Evans is having the time of his life as a mustachioed sociopathic villain and Gosling gets to deadpan a few good one-liners, there is not much to recommend The Gray Man. It’s not a film that has an identity of its own as the language of The Gray Man is the language of hundreds of other spy films. The characters do not talk like people; they talk like a Google Translate version of other spy characters. It’s as though the writers Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely watched Three Days of Condor, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and a collection of James Bond or Mission: Impossible IP and imitated those works.
The result is a group of characters who act more like types than people, and any moral questions about the uncanny amount of destruction to the film’s various European locales are washed away. The titular “gray man” refers to Ryan Gosling’s character, a convict recruited by the CIA, as being both morally gray and effectively invisible. However, the moral grayness of these characters is totally underutilized as this film clearly casts Evans as the villain and Gosling as the hero; there’s no gray area. And The Gray Man asks its audience to accept that literally every one of its characters never wrestle with the moral implications of killing another human being. Ultimately, there’s nothing gray about The Gray Man.
While it’s possible that some audiences could enjoy the action scenes, which are all spectacle and punctuate almost every plot sequence, the editing makes many of these scenes unintelligible. Ever since The Bourne Identity, action audiences have had to suffer through frenetic editing in the place of compelling choreography or just a clear sense of what is happening.
The Gray Man is on Netflix, which means that it’s often on in the background rather than being the center of audiences’ attention, as one would expect from a theatrical release. But this film isn’t even good enough for the background.
One out of five stars.