Penn’s Gunman misses the mark

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In this week’s DVD release, Sean Penn adds his name to the list of ageing tough-guy movie stars in The Gunman.

It was Liam Neeson who kicked off the curious modern craze for late-middle aged men wreaking bloody revenge. His movie Taken set the standard and here the director of that offering, Pierre Morel, tries to re-invigorate the genre.

Morel’s latest film sees Penn starring as Jim Terrier, an ex-soldier whose involvement in a murky black op in the Democratic Republic of Congo is catching up with him.

Someone is trying to take Terrier out, and he’s not happy. He shoots people, tries to win over a girl, travels to Europe, shoots more people, and hooks up with similarly-murky-past acquaintances in the form of Javier Bardem and Ray Winstone.

He also takes off his shirt. A lot. Penn co-wrote the script and you can tell that at the time he was very happy with the way his personal training was going. He’s written an awful lot of topless scenes.

Penn is an Oscar-winner who can stake a claim as one of the finest actors of his generation and although he throws himself into the role with some success, his co-stars are less impressive.

What we’re left with is an action-by-numbers which has just about enough going on to keep the viewer entertained, but is disappointing to anyone wanting more.

Recently there were reports that Charlize Theron broke up with Penn by ghosting him – i.e. ignoring all his calls and texts. If you’re looking for a well-crafted, intelligent film, then you’d do well to take the same approach here.

But if you’re happy to turn the brain off and forgive a few clunky performances – and a plot which creaks more than an ageing action star’s bones – then The Gunman is just about worth watching.