The Gunman is directed by Pierre Morel, the director of Taken. The film, funnily enough, also uses the exact same screenplay as Taken, so there's that. We follow the story of... uh... now that I think about it, I don't even know Sean Penn's character's name... or any character's name... or what even happened in this movie. There's some plot about getting vengeance over an attempted killing. There's a plot about a previous sniper assassination. There's a plot involving Sean Penn and his ex-girlfriend. There's a plot for just about everything, yet nothing at all. The Gunman is a mess and somehow it's even harder to follow than Inherent Vice. Yeah, I went there.
The Gunman is all over the place. It's a completely unfocussed movie, spending way too much time on the backstory that at one point I thought it was going to be the main plot, but then what happens? We get the "six years later" title card, although even by that stage I'd lost interest in this film. And in case the first twenty or so minutes weren't messy enough, the film then decides it would like to add in countless subplots, irrelevant supporting characters and then pretend that Javier Bardem and Idris Elba are the leads, when in actual fact they have about five minutes of screen time total between the two of them.
As the film went on, I slowly came to the realisation that The Gunman, despite having the word gun in the title, is missing, uh, a lot of guns. In fact, there's really just a couple of short action sequences that come to mind when I think about this film. I suppose I could say the same about Taken, although the difference between this and Taken is the main character. The two films, while similar in plot, feature two completely different leads, further proving the obvious statement that a lead with layers is 1000 times better than a bland and familiar lead.
With Taken, the lead actor is Liam freaking Neeson. I will love that man in everything he's in, so the fact that I cared about his character was a plus. With this, Sean Penn's character didn't give me anything to connect with. He's just your typical, run of the mill dude and because of that, I found myself extremely bored. Sure, they try to add in a disease, but this is only utilised in two scenes, neither of which were that investing.
This film does have its redeeming qualities though. While the action is bland and infrequent, the plot is all over the place and the screenplay is laughable, the performances aren't all that bad. Sure, like I previously mentioned, Idris Elba and Javier Bardem are hardly in the film, but when they are, they're actually pretty good. Anyone could've filled in Elba's role and he didn't add anything special to the character, but his performance is fine and I guess that counts for something.
But it's Sean Penn that actually does the best job, acting-wise at least. He co-wrote the script as well and while that's far from amazing, his performance is admirable. It's not Mystic River levels of amazing, that scene where he asks if his daughter is dead still sends chills down my spine, but he does the best with what he's given, even if what he's given is rather embarrassing for his career.
To sum up, The Gunman features a strong performance from Sean Penn, but other than that, there's not a lot to go off. It's a messy, dull and action-less movie that wastes its supporting cast and just feels way too familiar.