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Study Break: ‘The Gunman’ review

Erin Vierra

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“The Gunman,” starring Sean Penn, is full of the usual action movie cliches, but the film is elevated by Penn’s solid-as-always acting. Photo courtesy of Open Road Films.

When it comes to action movies, expect a lot of cliches. The new Sean Penn movie, “The Gunman,” is no exception.

At first glance, the movie comes off as worth watching. Penn seems like a good fit as an aging professional killer who seeks to find redemption for his past. But the film’s execution doesn’t live up to expectations.

Here’s the plot for those who love cliches.

Penn stars as Jim Terrier, a retired sniper on the hunt for both redemption and the men who want him dead. During the prologue, the year is 2006 and the setting is the Democratic Republic of Congo where Jim is working by day for a security task force for the mining corporations and by night as a hitman for some unseen shadow employer. After a political assassination, Jim, who was chosen to take the shot, is now forced to leave the continent and his sexy doctor girlfriend, Annie, behind.

As the only female in the film, Annie’s sole purpose is to play a puppet to the male characters. Her strings are pulled only when it is deemed necessary. She is there as trophy, to be seen and not heard.

One minute she’s mad at Jim for leaving her and the next she’s in bed with him. What a great opportunity to see her naked. Her character adds nothing to the plot.

But it’s alright. An associate of Jim’s named Felix, played by Javier Bardem, promises to watch over her. Bardem is having way too much fun in this role and is clearly not taking it seriously. How could he be when his character is so obvious in his desires and greed?

Felix is so obviously in lust with Annie that he clearly arranges for Jim to be the one to pull the trigger.

He is the little kid who cries when he doesn’t get what he wants. Without Jim in the way, he and Annie can run off into the sunset together.

For the short amount of time Bardem is on screen, it’s a delight, even if he is stumbling around drunk off his ass admiring his property.

Fast forward to seven years later. Jim is back where we first saw him, but this time actually trying to do some good. He’s there to help the locals mine, and when he’s not helping, he’s catching some waves in one of many attempts to show off his abs, which the audience can ogle throughout the film.

When a group of unknown assailants try to have him killed, Jim finds himself on the hunt to find out who’s behind the hit and why.

The rest of the film follows the same predictable track as any other “Taken” film.

Penn’s character is crippled by post-traumatic concussion or “early Alzheimer’s” as the doctor calls it. This disease renders his character useless during key moments of the film when he needs to be the tough guy and his skills with a gun are needed. Penn gives the character a nice little flaw and with his acting skills, it works.

The most delightful part of the film comes in the shape of Idris Elba, who plays an Interpol agent whose task is to bring the shady corporation that Jim was employed by down.

What follows is a short, cryptic message about tree houses that is pure cinematic fun at its best.

If you’ve seen one action movie, you’ve seen them all. “The Gunman” doesn’t deliver any new punches to the genre, but thanks to the casting of Penn, it delivers what it needs to.

Erin Vierra can be reached at [email protected] or @gingersmurf85 on Twitter.

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Study Break: ‘The Gunman’ review