The Gray Man

Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Written by: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, and Mark Greaney

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo are most known for their Marvel films, and their slick action sequences. Chris Evans is forever engrained in memory as Captain America, but in this film, he attempts to distance himself by taking on a character that is sadistic and somewhat of a sociopath. Ryan Gosling is well…Ryan Gosling. Not heavy on dialogue and mostly stoic stars. Now I usually do not do reviews on films adapted from novels as the original author may not have been involved in the screenplay adaptation. Yet for this film, I will make a rare exception. The Russo brothers continue to show us they got lots of style in action, but lack some substance in character development.

Here comes the spoilers.

The film opens with Billy Bob Thornton, senior CIA official Fitzroy, meeting with a young man convicted of killing his abusive father. He offers him a way out of prison if he works for the CIA. Years later we see this young man as Sierra Six working with another agent in an assassination of a target in Bangkok. When he takes out the target, the target reveals he is Sierra Four and hands Six a USB drive with what he claims are documents detailing the corruption of the CIA with the director Denny Carmichael. Six then refuses extraction with Carmichaels men out of fear they will kill him, and he calls now retired Fitzroy to extract him. Carmichael hires a mercenary Lloyd Hansen (Evans) to track down Six and retrieve the drive. When we get introduced to Hansen’s character it seems everyone is well aware of his behavior and the extreme measures he takes. Yet we do not go to those extremes they imply and that is perhaps the most unfortunate part of the entire film. We go about 25% and that is about it. Waste of a great character and a way to really flip the script with Evans being so entangled with the Captain America persona.

Fitzroy helps extract Six, but in doing so Hansen kidnaps his niece Claire to force him to authorize the extraction team to kill Six. Six manages to kill them all and escape. Hansen takes Fitzroy and Claire to a mansion in Croatia. Hansen put out a bounty on Six so every assassin in the world will hunt him. Six goes to Vienna to track down the maker of Claires pacemaker so he can track her location. He gets betrayed by the doctor who holds him for ransom. Hansen and his men arrive and Six again manages to escape, but this time with the help of the agent from the Bangkok mission, Miranda. She at first wants to take him in to repair her tarnished reputation with the agency, but after he reveals the contents of the drive as proof she joins him to help him rescue Fitzroy and Claire.

We get introduced to an assassin called the Lone Wolf, ho I must say is even more stoic than Six. He managed to steal the drive from Six and Miranda and in the end he shows he has compassion and a conscience when he gives back the drive as he doesn’t approve Hansen’s willingness to harm children. I welcome them bringing his character back in future sequels. I think there is so much to unpack in this character’s history. Perhaps a team up between him and Six might be something we get treated to in a future film.

Now there are several flashback scenes which show Six’s prior relationship with Claire as her bodyguard. This goes to some lengths to show a bond and that he cares about her. Yet I think they missed the mark with Hansen representing an abusive man that was much like Six’s father. This would have been another great use of flashbacks to have ix and Hansen’s fight recall memories of Six when he was abused by his father. It would deepen the empathy for Six and show a reason why he is so stoic and calm. Yet in this final fight let his rage and anger burst through that stoic surface and give us an emotional release within a fight. There is where we end up with a great concept for a new film series, but it lacks character development and empathy. Let villains be truly villainous so that when our heroes manage against all odds to defeat them, it is earned.

Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS.’  

Writing Movie Wrongs ( was created by Author Jim West to show how great storytelling is built on strong writing. In each review, he aims to highlight points in film that capture what the medium is capable of, or provide feedback on small improvements that would make a huge difference to the story’s plot. Read more about Jim West at

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