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The Gunman (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 118 minutes

Not for children.

One thing you can be sure of when you go to see a Sean Penn (Jim Terrier) movie: more serious overacting than is available from any actor except Al Pacino. The essence of acting is to have the audience not realize that it is watching someone give a performance, but to create the illusion that the actor is not acting at all. When you see Penn, however, you cannot help but know that you are seeing an actor reciting lines from a script and feigning actions, reacting to a director’s direction.

What makes this film imminently worse is that it makes virtually no sense whatsoever. All through the film I kept asking my friend, “Do you know what’s going on?” and “Do you know what’s going on yet?” The answer was always a shake of the head, no.

Oh, sure, we can understand that Felix (Javier Bardem), ostensibly Terrier’s friend, marries Terrier’s girlfriend, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), and that Annie is ticked off at Terrier for apparently abandoning her after Terrier assassinates a government official in The Congo. But in the end that has nothing to do with the story. And we know that people are trying to kill Terrier, but why?

And even after the movie is over the story makes no sense whatsoever. That’s not surprising considering that Penn gets a screenwriting credit along with Don MacPherson and Pete Travis. Sometimes actors believe their credits and apparently come to the idea that they need to do more than just act so they should have some input into the script.

Even director Pierre Morell (Taken) and a terrific score by Marco Beltrami can’t help the nonsensical story, based on a novel The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Menchette. Adding to the dilemma of understanding the film is a performance by Ray Winstone as Terrier’s friend Stanley, who talks in an accent so deep it needs subtitles.

Worse, Morell has so many scenes of Penn and almost everyone else walking around with guns looking for other people with guns, striking those hackneyed poses one sees every day in TV cop shows, walking down blind aisles with the gun in front of them held in two hands, swinging it back and forth quickly like they actually knew what they were doing. Finally when these scenes became so tiresome they lost the intended tension I pictured them filming the scenes in my mind’s eye with the cameraman backing up as they are walking forward, wondering if they felt foolish while filming the same scene over and over again.

Also worth noting is that the climax takes place in a bullfight ring even though the location of the film is Barcelona and Barcelona does not allow bullfighting. But that anomaly is consistent with the film and the unsatisfying ending that seems to treat a cold-blooded murder with a wink and a nod.

This is just an ego trip for an elderly actor, who can’t get a role in a good movie, to show he’s still alive, to try to prove he can be an action hero at his advanced years, and to narcissistically display a buff body.