BR: Gunman, The (2015)

November 24, 2015 | By


Gunman2015_BRFilm:  Very Good

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: n/a

Label: Universal

Region: A

Released:  June 30, 2015

Genre:  Action / Film Noir

Synopsis: Seven years after fleeing the Congo, an assassin is hunted by a team that has him leaping from England to Spain, and encountering old foes and an old flame.

Special Features:  (none)






One could present a fair argument that this film version of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s novel The Prone Gunman is a film noir veiled in a series of extended action montages, mostly because its leading character, a sniper named Terrier is a ‘dogged’ figure whose past comes to bite him in the ass, and mandates fast action and revenge.

Not unlike a classic noir tale of a war vet with a murky, violent past that swells up and puts him in terribly precarious states, Gunman has Terrier’s life destabilized seven years after being the trigger man in an Congolese assassination, sending him on the run initially for aide and information, but ultimately calling upon old colleagues, including Felix (Javier Bardem), the trusted friend now married to his former lover.

In relationships that echo traces of Gilda (1946), a vengeful Terrier is desperately trying to stay calm and collected and avoid any contact with former gal Annie (Jasmine Trinca) during his dealings with richer, sophisticated, and better-connected Felix, but like a classic noir, no one can be trusted because no one’s true motivations are genuinely clear.

Terrier’s prime goal is getting information on who’s trying to kill him (and potentially the others involved in the 2008 assassination), but Felix is determined to humiliate him in his highly personalized, ongoing war to retain Annie, and periodically embarrass her to  keep her in place. It’s a nasty menage a trois that more than implies Felix chose Terrier as the trigger man because it would send his rival out of the continent, giving Felix more than enough time to wed her, which she eventually performs out of gratitude for saving her life when the unrest forced the new couple to flee to Felix’ home in Spain.

While Ferrier’s been paying his moral dues for murder through more benevolent work – building wells in impoverished Congolese towns and villages – his surviving colleagues have built their own little empires, including Felix and the kill team’s main handler Cox (sleazy Mark Rylance). Terrier’s only true friend is Stanley (Ray Winstone), a fellow mercenary who, like his buddy, is neither rich and wears the scars of a hard life, looking aged and tired.

The other key genre element has Terrier diagnosed with plaque in his brain – a terminal state derived from too many hits to the head from deadly combat – making Gunman echo more than a few elements from the classic D.O.A. (1950).

Like doomed hero Frank Bigelow, Ferrier has a time limit to find his killer – he’s a man with a team of assassins on his tail rather than a man with the toxic contents of an expunged syringe coursing through his body – and the film clearly works its way through multiple looped chases and fight scenes, getting to a standard finale where the anti-hero must meet his ‘killer’ before final judgment.

Under the duress of the 1940s Production Code, all criminals had to pay their debts to society before the End Credits: the hired killer (or even a wrongly convicted yet morally grey figure like Leave Her to Heaven‘s Richard Harland) goes to jail, misses out on his prime years with the virtuous girl, and if infused with a terminal disease, dies ignominiously.

This does happens in stages – Terrier starts to comply with an Interpol agent (Idris Elba), then kills his foe, and finally faces justice for being the actual trigger man in what’s ostensibly a corporately-sanctioned killing – but apparently the filmmakers, the writers (which include star / co-producer / co-writer Penn), and / or the film’s investors felt the need to tack on a happier finale, and give audiences a sense of hope after so much grimness.

Gunman heads straight for that bleak Production Code-styled closing, but then jumps the shark in a tacked-on coda, and like 24s Jack Bauer, has Terrier reunited with the girl after an apparently perfunctory jail term , and has his illness (plus a gunshot to the tummy) put in neutral to enjoy a likely longer life.

Packed with a very able cast, Gunman is well acted, features effective minimalist dialogue redolent of seventies loner tales (like The Driver), has its characters globe-trotting from Congo to Britain to Spain, and offers bursts of solid action scenes which prove director Pierre Morel can be reigned in and avoid the ADD editing that made the Luc Besson productions District 13 (2004) and Taken (2008) visually psychotic.

Equally potent is Marco Beltrami’s score which is very subdued, going for unease and a sense of tilting morality instead of pulse-pounding action. Whoever kept the tone of each department reigned in, this is Morel’s best film, and one of Beltrami’s most effective scores in being so stealthy, sticking to modest instrumentation that matches the intimate conflicts of its core characters.

Universal’s Blu-ray features zero extras, which is disappointing, but one suspects the film’s financial participants (which includes veteran Joel Silver, Studio Canal, and were a bit unsure of the film’s success, and perhaps no one wanted to create making-of extras for a film that might end up as another star-studded video rental.

Penn’s own involvement with characters swimming in moral conflicts include U-Turn (1997), his deepest transgression into modern noir.



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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