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Sarcasm and wit serve as the defining traits of Netflix’s ‘Gray Man’

Netflix’s “Gray Man” follows the special agent known as Sierra Six (Ryan Gosling), a convict turned Sierra agent (essentially a killer for the government) as he gets ahold of evidence proving that the man who hired him, Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), is corrupt. Thus begins a manhunt for Six, headed by Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), who is hired by Carmichael to retrieve said evidence. With the added stakes of Six’s loved ones being kidnapped, viewers watch as Six matches wits and fists with Hansen and the CIA. 

I first heard about this film through one of Netflix’s TikTok ads. The focus of these videos was more so placed on the humor and action scenes of the film, with a specific emphasis on highlighting snarky conversations from the film. I have to say such advertising was rather effective for me, making me eagerly await the day of the film’s release. However, after watching the film and looking back at what occurred, I find that the sarcasm and banter was the only part of the movie that made it stand out as much as it did. The plot was rather similar to most other action films, and most of the characters weren’t even very likable (and those that were, besides the protagonist, didn’t get much screen time). Furthermore, while I am on the topic of characters, I think that so much time was spent emphasizing Six and Lloyd’s banter and wit, that the other characters in turn felt a tad out of place. The other characters seemed to be acting like how one would expect in a dramatic action movie, so when compared with the two main characters, they come off as either boringly practical, annoying or annoyed—though I will admit that Claire Fitzroy (Julia Butters) was an exception, alongside the occasional witty line that made me chuckle from the other characters.

On another note, it felt like the plot of the movie was a tad unfocused, with two different problems fighting for the attention of the audience. When the first problem was introduced, it seemed to be more or less a cut-and-dry objective: expose Carmichael for who he was, and don’t get killed along the way. However, when Lloyd stepped onto the scene, a second problem (the kidnapping of Six’s loved ones) was introduced. The film then flickers between establishing Six’s relationship with Claire, one of the kidnapped victims, Six trying to evade Lloyd’s pursuits and the occasional examination of Six’s backstory. These different focuses did end up solidifying somewhat at the end, but it felt as if the writers were trying to do too much at once, and that certain plot points could have been taken out to help the movie feel less jumbled.

Now, that isn’t to say that the whole movie was not to my liking. As I said before, the witty banter that was scattered throughout the plot was quite enjoyable, whether it was between Lloyd and Six specifically, or these two having separate conversations with the other characters in the movie. I find that it was a quite refreshing take for the action genre. Not only is it more entertaining, but I think it is in a way more realistic as well. Plus, seeing Chris Evans play another villain was both intriguing and amusing, not because he did a bad job (far from it actually) but because seeing the same man who played the righteous Captain America play such an interesting villain so convincingly was just hilarious to me. Lloyd Hansen was a fantastically horrible villain, and I think Evans did a wonderful job playing that character on the screen.

Before I finish my review, there is a more specific problem, as a Black viewer and writer, that I find with the movie. More specifically, how the Black characters all fall into two categories: dead or villainous. Regé-Jean Page is cast as the main antagonist (the corrupt government official who is willing to do whatever it takes to keep his secrets under wraps) and he isn’t given any likable qualities. Up until the very end, he is unrelenting, unsympathetic and doesn’t feel a bit of remorse. Meanwhile, characters like Barnes (Eme Ikwuakor) and Maurice Cahill (Alfre Woodard), serve as allies to Six, helping him in different parts throughout the movie, but they don’t last until the end. I find it both confusing and frustrating that the writers and casting directors of this movie didn’t think to have at least one Black character make it to the end that viewers could at least have some respect toward. I don’t think it would have been that difficult to accomplish.

If you like action movies, feel free to give the movie a shot. I doubt that the plot will be riveting in any way, but I think that the dialogue will give you a few chuckles and smirks to walk away with.

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