There once was a time when Netflix was flourishing harder, better, faster, stronger than anyone could've imagined. Streaming was entering the mainstream, and Netflix was well poised for some sort of ridiculous growth. Along that same time, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was growing at a similar rapid pace, coming to a head with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, both of which were helmed by the Russo Brothers. It certainly seemed as though life was perfect for these film juggernauts. What could possibly go wrong??
Well, Netflix has lost subscribers in back to back quarters and is now probably going to throw ads in somewhere. Additionally, after this development, Netflix said some wild shit about not greenlighting huge passion projects like The Irishman, but also immediately approved a Red Notice sequel -- and let's not forget their ridiculous multipicture film deal with Addison Rae. I mean, it doesn't really sound great if I'm being honest.
Not to mention the Russo Brothers, fresh off the sweet sweet high of cracking the second highest box office gross in film history with Avengers: Endgame, decided to also say some wild shit. Primarily the Russo Brothers said something along the lines of Avengers: Endgame being this powerful political tool to motivate the masses ahead of the 2020 US Presidential Election. Which is just some insane mental gymnastics to make you feel like your superhero movie has some actual substance. Their first MCU film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier had way more political overtones to it than movies about getting magic stones to fight a purple alien. Fast forward a few years and the Russo Brothers have shed their MCU cocoon in hopes of becoming a full-fledged film butterfly with new original and adapted films like Extraction, Cherry, and now The Gray Man.
Extraction was written by the Russo Brothers, so it may not count for this argument but Cherry and The Gray Man both boast writing and directing credits from the brothers. Not to mention both films were marketed to the nth degree for starring current and alumnus MCU actors such as Tom Holland and Chris Evans. However, both movies were... well they just weren't good. I'll talk about The Gray Man specifically here and leave Cherry for another day.
The Gray Man follows a sometimes straightforward-sometimes-not-story where Six (Ryan Gosling) uncovers a dirty little secret about the CIA and quickly becomes hunted by the hired gun, Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans). Assisted along the way by Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas), a fellow agent of sorts, the two attempt to save Six's mentor's (Billy Bob Thornton) niece, Claire (Julia Butters), and expose the very agency they work for. Oh, and they're trying to survive too, can't forget that one.
With a rather interesting and promising story, along with a stacked cast, The Gray Man really fails to capitalize on the potential it possesses. The first serious problem with the film is the dialogue. The dialogue is horrendous. Plenty of the lines in this film are those classic Marvel lines that are thrown in for some comedic relief between superheroes chumming it up, but it's all completely out of place in this film. There are huge action sequences and some rather beautiful set pieces and then you have Evans' sociopathic Lloyd Hansen saying something like "make him dead", or even "you wanna make an omelette, you gotta kill some people." Sheer nonsensical lines that detract from the seriousness of the position that Six and Miranda are supposed to be in.
Paired with the dialogue is the issue of the characters. My absolute least favorite character, because he could've been ten times better, is the shadowy CIA director Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page). Carmichael is supposed to be this evil dictator-esque replacement to Thornton's Fitzroy and stop at nothing to get what he wants through any means necessary. We only see him for a handful of shots where he actually has serious dialogue and none of it has any substance! The duality of Carmichael and Fitzroy should be a softball of a character study in this movie, but the writing was a complete swing and a miss.
Lastly, my final grievance with this film is the sudden love for sweeping drone shots. Never in my life have I dealt with motion sickness, but the location shots that Russo Brothers decided on using drones for, which by the way it is very apparently drones, are heinous. These are massive sweeping camera angles in a very fast drone that are hard to watch, understand, and even tolerate. It doesn't set a scene in any way because you can't tell where the scene is because the camera is flying by buildings at 35mph! If you're picking up some camera techniques from Michael Bay's Ambulance then you should reevaluate said camera techniques.
Tying this back to Netflix here, this was the largest Netflix budget original film to date with an absurd $200 million. It was marketed as this massive epic action film with Ryan Gosling and reuniting the MCU phenom writer/directors the Russo Brothers and Captain America Chris Evans -- not to mention the rest of the cast as well which is full of unbelievable talent. It's almost hard to comprehend how you make a pretty mediocre film like this, but it really all stems from the Russo Brothers inability to get out of their own way. Their MCU movies are good, but their original/non-MCU adapted characters they've been able to come up with, as seen in The Gray Man, lack substance and any sort of compelling story. As harsh as this sounds, its worth monitoring whether the Russo Brothers can muster up the script and direction for a good original movie, or are they simply MCU writers/directors entrenched in their past success?
We've got ourselves another collaboration beer folks! This one is brewed by Bale Breaker Brewing and Fremont Brewing, called Cultivision! Cultivision is a Cold IPA full of pine aroma and flavor along with some really nice dankness from its hops. It contains a little more bitterness at the start than you would anticipate with 60 IBU but its not a hindrance by any means.
I picked this beer for a number of reasons so buckle up.