On paper, the newly released star-studded Netflix movie The Gray Man probably sounded to the streamer’s executives like as close to a cinematic slam dunk as it gets. A telegenic cast, a ridiculously massive budget, gorgeous European locales, big-name directors, nonstop gun battles, and intense fight scenes — if you’ve got a bowl of popcorn and time to kill, what’s not to like?
Turns out, if you’re a professional critic, pretty much everything.
After debuting on Netflix on Friday, July 22, The Gray Man has rocketed all the way to #1 on the streamer’s top movies chart in the US. As far as how it’s performing globally, this Tuesday will offer our first insight on that score with Netflix’s next batch of global Top 10 charts. Having said all that, though, the fact that viewers appear to be bingeing the heck out of the movie is separate from … well, the drubbing it’s taken from critics.
Critics haaaate The Gray Man
Just look at these aggregate scores on Rotten Tomatoes for the movie. Which, by the way, is based on The Gray Man thriller novels from author Mark Greaney:
- Tomatometer score (via critics): 49%
- Audience score: 90%
Honestly, having watched the movie myself, both of those scores probably overstate the case for or against. Bottom line, though: The movie — starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in a pretty straightforward, around-the-world game of cat and mouse between two elite secret agents — is nowhere near as bad as the reviews are trying to make it out to be.
Including reviews like this one, from Mashable. “It feels like a mixtape, pulling bits from a bunch of much better, much more daring action movies, to create a medley that is mediocre at best.”
The good and the bad
Let’s start with what I didn’t like about the film. If I had to identify the single biggest misfire? It was casting Regé-Jean Page as the movie’s smarmy and overly nefarious CIA head honcho. No disrespect to the Bridgerton star, who is a fine actor and does a decent job here. But in Greaney’s books, there was a bro-y, institutional privilege and malevolence I always picked up on from the character of Denny Carmichael. And it’s impossible to be similarly disgusted with Page, try as he might.
Then, there are the tropes. There’s nothing in The Gray Man you haven’t seen before. From the evil bureaucrat to the father-figure type who identifies and springs a lost young man from prison that he turns into a killer, there are no surprises here.
But I don’t hold that against the movie. If you’re not going to give me something new? At least give me something visually appealing to look at. And on that score, this 2-hour Russo brothers-directed film delivers. We get Ana de Armas, who would still command attention if she were sitting behind a desk twiddling her thumbs. Plus gun battles of epic scale and Chris Evans’ scene-chewing villain. All of that, and more, serve as a straightforward reminder: This movie is just out to entertain you. Nothing more, nothing less.