The Gunman


Viewed – 26 March 2015  Cinema

Sean Penn isn’t the first person that comes to mind when you’re talking action movies … he’s more your method actor thesp with a few decent performances under his belt.  However with not a great deal to choose from at the cinema recently, this movie from the director of Taken (is that a trusted recommendation these days?) made for an intriguing prospect.

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Penn plays a special forces operative in the Congo on a top secret mission where he is involved in the assassination of a politician.  He subsequently goes into hiding following the hit and has to turn his back on his sultry girlfriend (Jasmine Trinca) and his best bud (Jarvier Bardem).  Eight year’s pass and he’s working as an aid worker in a  village when a hit squad recognise him and attempt to kill him.  Scared and worried who might have been talking, Penn goes about tracking down his former colleagues in search of answers.

Penn is on fine form and handles some slick, violent action with ease – this is certainly a side we don’t normally see from him and like his predecessor Liam Neeson he acquits himself with honours.  This surprises and shocks in equal measure with some brutal violence and an intense, nerve-wracking tone.  A clever brain-injury plot device aside, It lacks the emotional wallop of Taken and Penn doesn’t quite have Neeson’s charisma, but buffed up and breaking skulls a plenty, he still does a decent job.  Supporting cast especially Bardem as the grinning, shifty friend and a weary-looking but enjoyable Ray Winston add flavour and we even get Idris Elba as a shadowy Interpol agent.

It’s not about to spawn a franchise like Taken (thankfully) and probably won’t become a classic due to a sometimes confusing plot, but for fans of gritty, bone-crunching thrillers that don’t let up – this one is worth your time.

Verdict:  4 /5

No Country For Old Men


Viewed – 07 June 2008  DVD

This was the big Oscar win earlier in the year, and as a fan of The Coen Brothers, I had wanted to see this at my earliest convenience.

Now that I have I’m happy to say that on a whole this delivers as a) the Coens seriously back on form after a double bill of shite (The Lady Killers, Intolerable Cruelty), and b) seat-of-the-pants cat & mouse thriller.  Josh Brolin (last seen in Planet Terror) plays a local guy who stumbles upon a bloody crime scene and finds a case full of money.  He decides to make off with it, unknowingly causing a homicidal hitman to come after him.  This guy goes Terminator on anyone in his way and is really the pull of this film (understandably Jarvier Bardem got a gong for his trouble), and as can be expected, much blood shed, shoot outs and calamity ensue.  Trying to come between the hunter and the hunted is a close to retirement sherrif (an always dependable Tommy Lee Jones, who strangely doesn’t really add a helluva lot to proceedings).

The only real thing to knock this gritty, exciting and superbly shot movie is its rather puzzling ending – I guess the Coens were going for clever, but I can see it dividing audiences.  Shame as otherwise this would have been a well deserved ‘5’.  Still, worthy entertainment by anyones standard.

Verdict:   4 /5