The consensus that seems to have emerged about Netflix’s uber-expensive and newly released spy thriller The Gray Man is that this Russo Brothers movie is one of two things, depending on whether you’re an entertainment critic or a viewer.
To many of the critics who got an early look at the streamer’s adaptation of the first title from author Mark Greaney’s Gray Man series of espionage novels, the resulting 2-hour feature film is an overall too-slick, slightly derivative star vehicle wherein the filmmakers spent too much time and money on making sure it looked great. At the expense of other things, like character development and the like. If the critical consensus matters to you, in other words? The Gray Man is Bourne-lite.
The thing is, though, the critical consensus doesn’t seem to matter much at all to many viewers. Plenty of them have decided the movie is an escapist romp that does exactly what action-thrillers are meant to do: Keep you entertained.
The Gray Man | Now streaming on Netflix
Mirroring the same lopsided reaction that we also saw in the wake of Amazon’s The Terminal List, viewers have responded much more favorably overall to The Gray Man. They’ve given it a 90 percent audience score at the moment on Rotten Tomatoes, for example, compared to a 49 percent score from critics.
The big question is whether this translates into the mother’s milk of success at Netflix. Specifically, into time spent viewing.
We’ll get our first idea of how the movie is faring among viewers on Tuesday, which is when the streamer will release its next batch of Top 10 charts. Suffice it to say, though, that for Netflix there’s a lot riding on the movie. Netflix gave it a record-breaking budget of $200 million, for one thing, making it the most expensive original film to debut on the streamer to date.
For now, let’s talk a little more about what The Gray Man actually has in store for viewers. “The Gray Man is CIA operative Court Gentry (Ryan Gosling), aka Sierra Six,” Netflix’s synopsis explains. “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.”
A few additional thoughts I had, in no particular order, after watching the movie (which I give a solid 8/10):
Overall, this is a fine adaptation of Greaney’s work. I’ve read several of his novels in the Gray Man series, and am planning to check out his latest — Armored, which is not part of the series — soon. The action and fight scenes in the movie, meanwhile, are tightly paced and as entertaining to watch as you’d expect from the directors whose bombast and spectacle gave us Avengers: Endgame.
As far as the cast, I’d never seen Ana de Armas in a role that required her to fight this much before. Nevertheless, she is fan-freaking-tastic as one of The Gray Man’s few allies in the secret world.
As a fan of Greaney’s novels, though, I felt myself wondering at times whether Regé-Jean Page was slightly miscast as CIA chief Denny Carmichael. From the books, I always got the sense that he was this bro-y, greasy suit who oozed privilege and smarminess. Page is a fantastic actor and he does a great job here, as always. But he plays the role in a bit more of a steely, buttoned-up style than I expected. It’s just a personal opinion though and doesn’t take away from any enjoyment of the movie.