Starring a ripped Sean Penn, The Gunman is a polarizing movie both for its backdrop (civil war and genocide in the Congo) and its director’s Taken-like execution of the story.
Directing is Pierre Morel, who unleashed the Taken franchise on the world; producing, Sean Penn, who also stars, co-writes, surfs, and peppers the film with very distracting bicep flexing.
To prove how polarizing this film is, here is what we think about the movie.
1. Sean Penn
HE SAYS: Sean Penn reinvents himself as an action star, but his memorable roles in the past keep dogging him. No matter how many times they show his buff bod, you will be distracted by Sam (I Am Sam) and Harvey Milk (Milk).
SHE SAYS: Penn is more ripped than ex-flame Madonna! And, finally, he gets to surf in a movie, coming full circle from his iconic portrayal of surfer dude Jeff Spicoli in the second movie of his long career, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (If you weren’t alive in the 1980s, move on.) But he is definitely more believable as an action star than Liam Neeson and gives off the vibe of a pocket Sly Stallone.
2. Special ops using an NGO as a cover AKA Hollywood using this movie as a cover
HE SAYS: It is quite obvious that the movie wanted to raise awareness for Africa’s plight. I suspect the producers steered the movie in another direction to make it more profitable—especially since old men going badass seem to hit it big with today’s moviegoers.
SHE SAYS: It wasn’t obvious to me. I loved the African backdrop, although you don’t see much of it aside from the tight shots of children’s faces. I also loved the opening up of the film by using different locations like London (although you don’t see much of it apart from the trademark long shot of the London Eye) and Barcelona (bullring, countryside, and that’s it).
3. The love scene
HE SAYS: Another tool to show off Penn’s physique and, of course, Jasmine Trinca’s. In the hands of a lesser director, The Gunman would devolve into a formulaic flick. But Pierre Morel has an eye for seamless transitions.
SHE SAYS: It was hot, almost feral. I was so worried that all the dry humping foreplay (it was too dark to tell if it was indeed that) was ruining Trinca’s obviously designer dress! She puts it on post-coitus and, nope, not ruined. It is a testament to the tag price that it fell back on effortlessly and draped over Trinca beautifully despite what was done to it. Obviously, men made this movie.
4. The bull
HE SAYS: If this movie is a showcase of Europe, then Barcelona is stereotypically Spanish with matadors. Like a metaphor gone wrong, the bull comes out as a symbol and ends as a plot device, doing the main character’s job for him. SPOILER ALERT: the bull kills the bad guy.
SHE SAYS: I don’t mind the symbolic plot device. I always get a kick when the dei ex machina are senseless animals. What I mind is that I spent part of the movie with my hand covering my face because of all the blood and gore, especially after we just wolfed down a plateful of sauce-covered tonkatsu seconds before the movie!
5. The cast
HE SAYS: Underutilized. Javier Bardem is a clown chimera of his past roles. Idris Elba’s hand had more screen time than his face. Trinca as the female lead is hard to take seriously, especially with her unsexy accent (unlike Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek).
SHE SAYS: What cast? I was too distracted by Sean Penn’s biceps and, occasionally, his triceps. (Did Jim Terrier really spend that much time washing his face in the novel or was it an excuse to show off Penn’s arms?) Who knew Jeff Spicoli could be this hot at 55?
In Philippine cinemas March 18.