The Gunman is a 2015 film by director Pierre Morel (Taken, From Paris with Love, District B13).
Sean Penn plays private security contractor Jim Terrier, one of the many members of security forces working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a man with military training and a talented sharpshooter. The country itself is rich with minerals (gold, diamond, copper) and is in chaos as civil war and militias murder, maim, rape and plunder, whilst attempting to profit trading with the west.
Alongside security for non governmental organisations (NGO’s) that are providing medical care for the nation, Penn and team (including Mark Rylance and Javier Bardem) are working on a parallel assassination contract missions for a private interest groups and mining companies. One of these missions sees them assassinate the nation’s mining minister, subsequently requiring Penn to flee the country and go into hiding.
Fast forward 8 years. Terrier is back in the Congo, but this time now working for an NGO, attempting to improve the country. Whilst laying pipes, 3 men arrive attempting to kill him needing to also take a blood sample from him to be ‘proof of death’, showing that it was certainly no coincidence.
And off Terrier goes on his own mission to try and find out who wants him killed and why. Not only is this challenge enough but in recent years has also developed symptoms akin to Altzehimers leading to memory loss, dizziness and passing out.
The film also sees Jasmine Trinca play the love interest as Terrier’s girlfriend ‘Annie’ from the original time in the Congo, and then becoming re-acquainted with him as he digs into his attempted murder.
Every poster that I saw for this film when it came out (and the majority of the ones that I’ve seen online since) made a large effort to point out that this film is from the ‘Director of Taken’, and its not hard to see why. But this film most certainly isn’t Taken.
It shares the largely European setting, the action set pieces, and the ‘older protagonist with serious fighting skills trying to work his way through a plot’ vibe. However, it lacks the pace, the clarity of storyline and feels as though its attempting to do too much in its 1 hour 55 minutes. Also the characters (especially Annie) don’t seem to make a lot of sense in life decisions.
It moves around the world like a Bond film, and certainly some of action set pieces are Taken-esque. Penn and Bardem especially are great in their roles and the film features a traditional performance from Ray Winstone (somewhat stereotypically first met in a British pub) as a former colleague now trying to help him. Idris Elba also makes an appearance as an Interpol agent.
In parallel to this, its clearly also trying to convey a message about the atrocious situation that has played out (and continues to) in the Congo.
Kind of ends up feeling like a not great kinda Bourne/Taken movie.