The Gray Man is CIA operative Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling), aka, Sierra Six. Plucked from a federal penitentiary and recruited by his handler, Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton), Gentry was once a highly-skilled, Agency-sanctioned merchant of death. But now the tables have turned and Six is the target, hunted across the globe by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a former cohort at the CIA, who will stop at nothing to take him out. Agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas) has his back. He’ll need it.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “The Gray Man is, first and foremost, a classic spy movie. The draw of its elaborate action scenes, the size of its cast and the charisma of its lead performances keep it afloat in the pool of familiarity.” See his full review below.

The Gray Man

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Gray Man is, first and foremost, a classic spy movie. The draw of its elaborate action scenes, the size of its cast and the charisma of its lead performances keep it afloat in the pool of familiarity.<p>Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling) is a CIA operative who carries out killings of whomever they desire, as part of a deal he made decades ago to dodge prison time. On a job in Bangkok, as he dies, his target reveals the unexpected kinship he holds with Court and gives him a drive containing damning information about the people Court works for. These two discoveries force him to drop everything and go on the run with the intel. Back at the CIA, Court’s boss (Regé-Jean Page) is furious about the intel leak and Court’s betrayal. In response, Court’s boss calls in a former operative named Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans). Rejected by the CIA for his violent, psychotic methods and his lack of concern to amend them, Lloyd has no qualms about eliminating whoever stands between him and his mission’s objective. And so, a cat and mouse chase begins between Court and Lloyd, a battle of wits and ability that tracks the entire globe.

The Gray Man has a lot going on besides Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling, but they are absolutely the reasons to see this movie. Ryan Gosling tones Court down— you really believe he was nurtured in his line of work, not born into it. Gosling is eternally tired in the role. Every obstacle, every adversary gets the same tossed off  “Are we really doing this?” look from Gosling. Yet there’s also an eternal spark: his wit, as if the opportunity to fire off a quip is what keeps him going through stab wounds and raining gunfire. The quipping brings something new to this spy archetype—the sense that this is just a particularly tough day on the job for Court and Gosling communicates that really well.

Every performance has its equal opposite reaction; so the yin to Gosling’s yang is Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen. Where Gosling is just barely limping his way from explosion to explosion, Evans is confidently striding after him. He walks into this movie with a prominent mustache on his lip, or “trash Stache,” as Court calls it, and a smile on his face, ready to do his thing. Lloyd enjoys his job. He waxes poetic about the joys of improv in torturing and the opportunity to kill the prized asset of his former employee only sweetens the deal and raises his spirits. Evans is whistling and skipping as he inflicts government-sanctioned mayhem. It’s fun to watch him play a character this unraveled and unafraid of any repercussions for his psychotic actions.

The Gray Man also features set piece upon set piece of impressive action. It’s not always the best-presented, and the editing can be discombobulating, but there are points where directors Russos find their footing. And the magnitude of some of the confrontations between Court and enemy forces also make seeing this movie worthwhile. A tram racing through the streets of Prague with Ryan Gosling dodging enemy fire, for example, or a fistfight in the middle of a firework launcher with fireworks erupting all around—there are moments in The Gray Man that are undeniably cool.

There is no real lesson to The Gray Man other than maybe staying out of the hitman industry. However, there are moments of action in The Gray Man where scale and invention and starpower all line up for something that feels truly thrilling. Even if it doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it feels as if The Gray Man lacks an “X-factor” to set it apart from other cinematic spy fare, it’s a reminder of why the genre is so irresistible: the stars, the scope, and elite operatives with big personalities and shifting allegiances.

I give The Gray Man 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults, for language, intense action, and multiple instances of torture. The Gray Man is in theaters for a brief period starting July 15, 2022, and launches on Netflix globally on July 22, 2022.

Keywords: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum, Mike Larocca, Chris Castaldi, Palak Patel, Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Jessica Henwick, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Billy Bob Thornton