The Gray Man review: Netflix's mega-budget spy thriller has all the action but no emotion

The Gray Man is now streaming on Netflix (Image via Netflix)
The Gray Man is now streaming on Netflix (Image via Netflix)

The hotly anticipated Russo brothers' directorial The Gray Man is finally out on Netflix. Helmed by some of Hollywood's A-listers, the film has drawn considerable attention and hype. Not to forget the insanely big budget and a script by the duo behind the Avengers films that aggrandized it right into the league of John Wick and James Bond franchises.

With a whopping $200 million spent on production, the creators left no stone unturned in making this the grandest action film to hit the streamer. However, they did underestimate the power of a good script, it seems. The film had all the clichéd elements of an action-thriller and simply lured viewers with a sparkling cast and explosive action.


If adrenaline pumping action and a glorious cast are what you tune in for, the film won't disappoint. However, when it comes to originality and riveting drama, the film drowns it out with the loudness of all the frenetic, tone-deaf action.

Russo brothers achieved a remarkable feat with The Gray Man by creating a blockbuster out of a soulless script

The plot of The Gray Man wastes no time in getting to the action part after establishing the very brief, need-to-know-only background for Ryan Gosling's Court Gentry aka Six. Why Six, you ask? Because 007 was taken.

In 2003, Agent Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) was seen recruiting prisoner Gentry as part of a highly covert special ops team made up entirely of criminals with no strings attached. Cut to 2021, a very seasoned Six was sent on a mission in Bangkok where his morality and conscience were established when he deviated from the plan to save a child from becoming collateral damage.

As it turned out, Six's mission was to kill one of his own. CIA's newly appointed group chief Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) was cleaning out his predecessor Fitzroy's criminal-turned-operatives and Six was appointed to kill Four. The MacGuffin came in the form of a flash drive tucked within a locket which Four handed over to Six and made a dying wish that went something like, "You give 'em Hell."

The thumb drive held information about Carmichael's wrongdoing and unsanctioned massacres. Naturally, he would go to any lengths to keep it from being leaked.

The limitless lengths came in the form of Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a sociopathic CIA operative-turned-mercenary who took joy in torturing and killing. He was supposed to be Carmichael's solution to the agency's latest liability in the form of Six, now a rogue operative, with a huge bounty on his head.

With Hansen hot in his heels, Six escaped one death trap after another through the rest of the film. By his side throughout most of the globe-trotting action was Ana de Armas' Dani, who had as many if not more chances to shoot big guns and take down fellow operatives. Bangkok to Turkey to Prague to France, the film offered four times the action at the price of one.

Six had two tasks at hand, saving his own life and saving his employer cum fatherly figure Fitzroy's niece, who had a heart condition. Claire Fitzroy (Julia Butters) had developed a bond with the supposedly cold and relentless Six while he babysat her for his boss. Every action hero must have a cause beyond mindless gunfire and mano-a-mano action, right? Claire filled the role of softening Six's edges. He even broke his poker face to wink at her.

Even in the role of a cut-throat hired gunman who's trained to kill as per orders and ask no questions, Ryan Gosling managed to be charming. Whether that's due to the actor's fundamental quality or the inability of the writers to stick to the character's executioner persona is a matter of perspective.

Apart from the sensory overload caused by the film's action, the gray area in The Gray Man seems to be the dull plot rather than the ambiguity of the characters because the characters, like the plot, are pretty washed out. Every character seemed cut out of the same cloth.

Whether it was Chris Evans' unhinged mercenary, or Ryan Gosling's righteous rogue agent, or Julia Butters' ill-starred Claire, they were all slick talking, underdeveloped, superficial characters. It was hard to emotionally invest in any of them. Viewers were thrown into high-octane, gonzo action sequences replete with bullets and bombs without any prior knowledge of them.

The Gray Man has a very "been there, done that" feel to it

The Gray Man played it safe with nothing too extraordinary or novel being introduced in the action-thriller. Rather, there was just more of the same. This adaptation of Mark Greaney's novel was Russo brothers' response to the James Bond franchise.

With nine more books in the series, one might expect the creators to improve upon the novelty and thriller aspects of the script hereafter if the film does become the first in a franchise.

Viewers and fans of the action genre must have noticed various overlaps with the John Wick, James Bond, and Bourne movies. However, while the film tried to portray Gosling in a Wick-like rogue agent, it missed the mark with creativity in the action choreography.

The Gray Man tried to squeeze in all the clichéd action elements and complete the checklist for a stereotypical big budget action film, with major emphasis on blazing guns and mindless destruction. However, the production failed to incorporate a taut and engaging story. The only thing that takes your breath away in this film is a shirtless Gosling.

The Gray Man premiered on Netflix on July 22, 2022.

Quick Links