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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Gunman (Blu-ray)
The Gunman (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // June 30, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted July 2, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Putting aside whatever your thoughts on Sean Penn may be these days, one should give him the tiniest bit of credit for deciding to take on The Gunman. A normally serious actor, winner of 2 Oscars, deciding to take on the task of carrying an action film in his 50s? Not many people can begrudge him for the change of pace. At a minimum, that warrants taking a look at. So I did.

Based on the Jean-Patrick Manchette novel "The Prone Gunman," (which Penn helped adapt) into a screenplay, Penn would be that gunman, playing Terrier. Part of a covert operations team, apparently for a multinational corporation, Terrier has the task of assassinating a cabinet official in 2006 Congo, and then he has to disappear. He leaves behind a girlfriend and other friends in the process. Some years later, we see him working to help drill in Africa, when several men come to attack him. He fends them off, but learns that there is a plot designed to kill those in the team who have since disbanded and gone separate ways. He comes back to civilization not only to warn many of those people, but also to find out who is responsible for the attacks.

Directed by Pierre Morel (Taken), The Gunman couldn't be more of a straightforward action film if it tried. And there are some interesting wrinkles in it, whether it be Javier Bardem (Skyfall) as co-star, playing Terrier's friend Felix, or Ray Winstone (Hugo) as Stanley, the guy Terrier turns to for forged paperwork, weapons, whatever. Jasmine Trinca (The Best of Youth) is Annie, who Terrier had to abandon and now Felix takes care of. As you can see, quite the impressive cast, so all Penn needs to do is carry the film along, presumably.

This only seems to happen erratically, or only to Penn's whims. We know he's a badass, or at least one that can handle himself, but long parts of the movie with him shirtless seem to be a way of conveying it, while trying to impress you that he was 53 when this film shot (that part is impressive at least). And in a lot of scenes when he does not do that, there are more than a couple of scenes with him brooding. They don't really communicate more about losing Annie or his quest to find the truth more than the events in the film already do, so it is a curious choice.

Penn does show a certain vulnerability with the character that I certainly was pleased to see, and the scenes with him interacting with Bardem were a treat. I only wish I had some more of them in The Gunman. The scenes with Trinca and/or Winstone were fine, as are the ones he shares with Mark Rylance (The Other Boleyn Girl), who plays Cox, the liaison for the team at the time, who has moved up a corporate ladder. There is a small surprise appearance near the end of the film which I will avoid mentioning, but his appearance is a waste and a bit of a disappointment.

Within its own little 116-minute universe, The Gunman has some moments where it is entertaining and even fun to watch. As gruesome as it sounds, the filmmakers do not shy away from using kill shots to the head to put a stamp on things. If a character's dead in The Gunman, he isn't coming back. But Penn never really appears comfortable in the lead role in the film, and thus, it pretty much looks like what it is, which is a two-time Oscar winner in an average action film.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

The AVC encode gracing The Gunman with which Universal has decided to give it is damn near fabulous. Lots of image detail throughout, whether it is tight shots of Penn over a sniper rifle, or the larger Barcelona exteriors, cinematographer Flavio Martinez Labiano's photography of the film looks great. Colors look excellent whether in the greens of the Congo jungle or the red and browns in Barcelona. I noticed a scene where Penn and Bardem interacted that seemed to have a bit of haloing in it but otherwise the high-definition version of the film looks excellent.

The Sound:

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack is superb from the jump. The film's many firefights are powerful yet immersive and effective, and the mission that takes Penn underground includes a rifle shot full of power and clarity. Quieter moments sounds clear and just as effective and the soundstage for the film is broad and pans effectively when it has to, with directional sounds possessing ample range. Another quality release from Universal.

Extras:

Some trailers for other Universal films, a standard definition disc of the film and a digital copy, and that's it.

Final Thoughts:

If you have an urge in your life to watch a bemuscled Sean Penn battle various assassins trying to kill him and occasionally other members of a mercenary squad he used to work with? Then with The Gunman, you're in luck. On a whole it is a middling action film, despite the familiar faces. Technically, it looks and sounds great, but the lack of bonus features is a touch disappointing. If one is looking for a change of pace like I was, give this one a look as a rental.

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