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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Gunman (2015) (Blu-ray)
The Gunman (2015) (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // June 30, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted July 12, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

The Gunman is a loud, muddled dud; a shame given the talent behind the camera. Pierre Morel (Taken) directs a world-weary Sean Penn in this adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette's novel. I was not familiar with his work, but discovered Manchette injected left-wing political views into his popular French crime novels of the 1970s and 1980s. The DRC-set opening teases a Sean Penn soapbox, but The Gunman devolves into a generic, ugly action picture. Ray Winstone and Javier Bardem stop by and add a touch of class, but The Gunman, with its weak narrative and violent interludes, left me shell-shocked and bored.

The cold open finds Jim Terrier (Penn) pulling double duty: Secretly a black ops assassin, Terrier also works security for a mining operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo alongside similarly situated friend Felix (Bardem). Jim and Felix are tasked with executing a local politician, and Felix selects Jim as the shooter. This is significant, because it means Jim will have to leave the continent and girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca), for whom Felix also has feelings. The shot is fired, and the assassination worsens fighting and tensions in the DRC. Jim returns to the country eight years later as a humanitarian, but is nearly killed by several locals seeking revenge for the previous assassination. He soon realizes this is the first wave in an onslaught of assassins sent by an unknown master.

The film desperately wants to be a thriller with international intrigue, and wears its politics on its sleeve. Unfortunately, something is lost in translation from page to screen, and the screenplay, from three writers, including Penn, is schizophrenic. The main conflict should theoretically be Penn escaping death, but The Gunman spends a lot of time spinning its wheels with underdeveloped side stories. Felix and Annie come back into play, and that awkward love triangle with Jim is good melodrama for a different film. The film also floats big ideas about the damage multi-national corporations can do when meddling in developing countries, but nothing much comes of this discussion.

Penn really bulked up for this role, and his action scenes are relatively believable. The first assassins are put down so easily that Jim gets diagnosed with convenient "post concussion syndrome," which gives him a vertigo of sorts, so he cannot totally run over his adversaries. Speaking of those guys, The Gunman is content to throw in waves of generic, two-dimensional attackers. I thought the film might toss in an interesting reveal about their source, but there is hardly a big surprise behind the curtain. The weak link here really is the narrative, and Penn and Trinca do their best with the material. Too much time is spent away from the central conflict, particularly in the third act, and The Gunman quickly lost my attention. Geysers of blood and headshots shock the viewer awake, but nothing in these frames is truly compelling.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is expectedly strong. Colors are appropriately saturated, whether in the golden-hued opening or the cold, grey finale. Fine-object detail is excellent, and every line and feature of Penn's face is visible above his weapon. Black levels are usually good, but I noticed a couple wavering toward blue/grey. Wide shots are crisp and deep, and I did not notice any digital manipulation of the image.

SOUND:

The Blu-ray features a huge Dolby Atmos soundtrack, which I sampled at its 7.1 Dolby TrueHD core. The mix is ridiculously immersive, with searing gunfire and explosions that rocked my home theater. Dialogue is usually crisp and clear and without distortion. I did notice one possible production-related oddity: When Penn and Winstone are talking in the bar, the dialogue sounds a bit rough. The subwoofer is frequently used to back up the chaos, and the mix features frequent sound pans and directional dialogue. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and both iTunes-compatible and UltraViolet digital copies. The discs are packed in a standard case, which is wrapped in a slipcover that replicates the generic key artwork. The film underperformed at the box office, and apparently someone wants it to die a quiet death. There are no extra features on the disc.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Despite Pierre Morel's energetic direction and Sean Penn, Ray Winstone and Javier Bardem on screen, The Gunman is a dull, convoluted thriller with misplaced ideas and too many side stories. The assassin's redemption storyline is tired, and the film offers little to warrant retreading this ground. Skip It.


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William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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