|Image courtesy of Open Road Films.|
It's not a bad film and the talented cast - which also includes Idris Elba, Javier Bardem and Ray Winstone - does their best with a storyline that has been trotted out by Hollywood again and again - a once violent man attempts to reconcile his past, only to be drawn back into the world he escaped through one nefarious plot or another.
In the film, Penn plays Terrier, a former killer for hire who takes part in an assassination in the Congo at the film's beginning, causing that nation to plummet into chaos. Years later - and still feeling guilty about his former line of business - Terrier has returned to the Congo, but this time to assist an NGO. However, a group of seemingly random men attempt to kill him but, of course, fail.
Terrier seeks out his old crew, which includes Bardem as a shifty business man and Mark Rylance as the team's former leader. This whole scenario wouldn't be complete without the girl that got away, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), who is now married to Bardem's Felix. Elba plays an Interpol agent, while Winstone is an old pal of Terrier's who doesn't appear to mind when his friend calls in numerous favors.
Chekhov once stated that a gun in a play is there for a reason, namely that, at some point, it is going to be used. In this film, it's pretty safe to say when a climactic sequence is set at a bullfight in Barcelona, someone is likely to get gored.
And that's sort of the problem with "The Gunman," which is far from a bad movie, but is too familiar to set itself apart from the exact same types of films Neeson has been making in recent years, some of which have been good. Penn's character is able to get himself out of any jam, due to this particular set of skills, and most characters appear to have hidden agendas. It's the type of film where the hero takes on 10 men in an abandoned warehouse and you know he'll be the one to walk away.
Penn and the cast bring a certain level of gravitas to the material, which is thin, because they are a talented lot. Penn is one of the very best actors of his generation, so I'm sure he could elevate the action genre through his participation. I'm just hoping if he does another film of this type, it's one that's a little more distinctive than "The Gunman."