Jim Terrier is a former special forces guy. A trained killer.
Of course, that's not widely known. As far as most of the people around him in the Congo are concerned, he's just part of a private security team protecting a group of workers. Even his girlfriend, Annie, has no idea what Jim did in the past.
Or what he's about to do in the future.
You see, Jim and his team aren't just in Africa to keep contracted airfield builders safe. They're also assassins. And when the signal comes down from some shadowy authority, Jim and his team fly into action: They set up and quickly assassinate a Congolese official with a well-placed sniper bullet to his unsuspecting head.
Jim isn't really happy about any of this. It's his job, yes, but he's wondering how much longer he can keep doing it. He's having questions. Doubts. On top of that, since he was the trigger man on this last hit, he'll now have to leave the continent. And to be quite frank, he's head-over-heels for his surgeon girlfriend. But that's what must be done.
Fast-forward eight years, and things have changed for Jim. He's left his former profession, partly because of those nagging doubts and partly because of his health. Post-concussion syndrome is giving him blazing headaches and producing memory loss.
On the positive side, though, he's out. And that's good. Instead of spilling blood, he's digging wells and ensuring clean water flows in undeveloped parts of the world. He's back in the Congo, of all places, this time with a totally different focus. And Jim's happy to be doing things that help him forget his past.
While working on that humanitarian project, Jim realizes he's been marked for a hit. He deals with one ragged team of murderous thugs easily enough. But he's pretty sure there will be more. And he's getting a sense that his current woes are all connected to that assassination he was a part of the last time he was in Africa. Perhaps it's time to look up his old associates and find out what they know.
Because when you're a man like Jim Terrier, you're never truly out. And that's bad.
Jim is willing to do whatever it takes to protect Annie when her life is endangered. And despite the many years he spent as a hit man, Jim says the span of time since leaving that violent way of life has truly changed him. He no longer wants anything to do with the horrors of his mercenary past. He eventually turns over vital information about those twisted events to the authorities.
We see Jim and Annie partially dressed and in bed twice—once while having sex. Annie wears little more than a sheer shirt in those two instances. They kiss passionately several times. In another scene she's thrown to the floor, her shirt falling open and partially exposing her breasts. She steps out of the shower in a towel and begins to drop it just as the camera looks away. We repeatedly see Jim shirtless as the camera admires his muscled physique.
The first splash of flesh-rending violence hits the screen when Jim looks down the sights of a cannon-sized sniper rifle and proceeds to launch a four inch shell through the windshield of an SUV. It smashes the safety glass like tissue paper, rips through the throat of a man in the front seat and shreds the face of the intended target in the back. It's a pseudo slow-mo ballet of blood that lets us know exactly what we can expect thereafter.
Men have their necks, guts and crotches hacked with knives and machetes. Some are viciously beaten, leaving their faces badly bloodied. A guy is pistol-whipped. Arms, legs and necks get snapped. Hands are stabbed and blown apart. A woman is struck hard by a man, her forehead streaming blood. Another woman's face is left bruised and swollen.
A thug has his skull crushed by a shovel. Several men are shot gruesomely (including one who is murdered execution-style and another with a rifle barrel jammed under his chin before the trigger is pulled). Men burn in a fire and get torn apart by grenade shrapnel. More are run over and gored by a raging bull. Even more are obliterated by an exploding mine (along with the apartment they're in).
And I haven't even mentioned the steady parade of firefights between Jim and any number of heavily armed pursuers.
Crude or Profane Language
About 35 f-words and at least a dozen s-words. God's name is combined with "d--n" twice. We also hear "b--tard" a couple of times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Jim almost always has a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. Others smoke too. All these toughs regularly toss back booze. Twice, a guy is visibly drunk. Jim pops prescription meds for his headaches and uses an ammonia inhalant to clear his foggy head. Annie is kept drugged by her captors.
Other Negative Elements
Thanks to Jim's post-concussion syndrome, he's regularly beset with headaches so sudden and painful that they drive him to his knees. We then watch him vomit.
Jim steals a car and a sport coat. He crosses paths with several old associates, including a guy named Felix, who's now with Jim's former flame, Annie. The latter man's devotion to Annie is sullied by alcohol-fueled jealousy that leads him to verbally abuse and push her down in one scene.
In this one-dimensional thriller, Sean Penn plays an aging-but-still-lethal mercenary who's equal parts grizzled muscle, deeply furrowed facial folds and smoldering intensity—which perhaps explains the ever-present plumes of cigarette smoke he's always exhaling.
Sound familiar? Let's just say that somewhere Taken's Liam Neeson is still mumbling about having "a particular set of skills"—skills that The Gunman's producers have obviously copped here in an attempt to reboot Penn's long-in-the-tooth career in similar fashion.
It all feels as weary as the perpetually scowling Penn looks. Add in convoluted story machinations and a rote romance and there's really nothing about The Gunman or its characters to draw us in and make us care in the least. Which leaves us with little more than a string of slickly produced action sequences featuring broken bones, gushing wounds and blown-out foreheads.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Sean Penn as Jim Terrier; Idris Elba as DuPont; Javier Bardem as Felix; Jasmine Trinca as Annie; Ray Winstone as Stanley; Mark Rylance as Cox
Open Road Films
March 20, 2015
June 30, 2015