Hey, I like a good grown-up story of international intrigue as much as the next guy. Even better if it involves lots of exotic locations and stylishly executed shoot-outs.
Unfortunately someone must have used that description, alone, as the treatment for The Gunman, perhaps with the postscript “oh and lots of shirtless Sean Penn.” (They got that last one done, so thoroughly that people in my screening started chuckling halfway through.)The Gunman is a pretty dumb movie in smart packaging, bookended by some kind of half-hearted critique of Westerners who strip the African continent of its natural resources and interfere with other people's politics. That topic is complex and esoteric enough that it would be great to see a careful movie on the topic, with or without Penn's famously lefty politics pushing the conversation forward. Balancing corporate gain, political interests, and other matters is not something handled well by abstract examples; a well-written story could illuminate some of the complexities and help people understand what's at stake. There are deep, tragic consequences to the excesses of capitalist hubris, especially when combined with philanthropy, that all audiences—especially Christian ones—ought to care about. But The Gunman elects instead to use the situation as the story itself, making it fit around the edges of a romance and a mystery and a bunch of fancy set pieces. Directed by Pierre Morel (best known for Taken) and with a screenplay based on a novel by French crime writer Jean-Patrick Marchette, the movie is clearly trying to be more than the sum of its parts. But these are boring characters, with silly dialogue. Here is a sample: a woman walks into a room ...1