Film: The Gunman

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Director: Pierre Morel

Cast: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Length: 115 minutes

Opening: Now showing

Plot: Sean Penn as ex-special forces officer and military contractor, Jim Terrier assassinates a minister in the Congo, only to find himself being hunted down eight years later. 


IT is a bit odd seeing Sean Penn in a Liam Neeson a la Taken sort of role — bare chested for the most part and handling a gun like it’s one of his limbs — so technically, fans of Penn should be intrigued and excited to see him in an action role. But with a weak plot and script, The Gunman fails to deliver. Unless of course you’re an action junkie with little interest in storylines. 

This movie doesn’t do anything that hasn’t already been done before in countless other action films — from the damsel in distress to a repentant assassin and the sheer number of never-ending gunfight sequences.  

That’s not to say that Penn has been miscast; after all, he sports a very respectably ripped physique that the movie tries to play up whenever it can. Is it because there isn’t really much else to look forward to? 

Even the talented Javier Bardem, who usually brings as much heart and soul into his movies as Penn does plays a character that is woefully under-developed, pathetic and not just unlikable, but thoroughly despicable. 

The Gunman revolves around Jim, who’s supposedly seen the error of his ways and tries to make amends by returning to the Congo as a humanitarian worker. That doesn’t last, though. Not even an hour into the movie and he goes on another killing rampage, taking out whoever stands in his way. 

We catch glimpses of Jasmine Trinca’s talent as an actress but you will be left disappointed that the director did not utilise more of her acting skills, and instead has her screaming like a helpless teenager 90% of the time. Playing Annie, Jim’s love interest, Trinca plays a female doctor on a mission to Congo to save lives, only to find herself incomprehensibly in love with Jim — and that pretty much sums up her entire character. 

Viewers will walk away from the movie wondering what the director, screenwriters and producers were hoping we’d learn from it. There certainly isn’t a moral of the story, and neither is it an epic love story that turns sappy, romantic hearts to mush. 

What it is, is basically, Sean Penn telling the world what resides under his T-shirt — what we never got to see in his best films, I Am Sam, Milk and Mystic River.



This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on March 27, 2015.