Netflix's "The Gray Man": Ryan Gosling And Chris Evans Go Loud In Russos' Propulsive Action Flick

"The Gray Man," directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, stars Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Regé-Jean Page, but its primary focus is on pounding pulses and taking breaths, rather than throbbing hearts. There is something explosive, big, and loud about it - a live-action version of that old "MAD" mag comic, "Spy vs. Spy."  

It's a simple story.As the Sierra program's "gray man," Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) recruits Six (Ryan Gosling) to kill bad guys for the CIA. In one mission, Six goes rogue in order to take out Dining Car (Callan Mulvey). The next target will be Six, however, as Dining Car reveals he is "Sierra Four." Using the medal, Four reveals compromising information about Denny Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page), who is Six's boss.

This unwelcome development leads Denny to hire independent agent Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) to kill Six and retrieve the drive. This does not exclude torture or destroying European cities for Lloyd, a man with "zero impulse control.".

I think that's all there is to it. Ana de Armas (underused, but still cool) shows up occasionally to kick ass, and there's a subplot involving Fitzroy's niece, Claire, who has a pacemaker (Julia Butters, "Once Upon a Time..."). It's mostly action sequences.

It's pretty nifty when it comes to the action set pieces, though. Six attempts to get out of a plane that is pretty much falling apart as it goes down in one dizzying sequence. It is pretty ingenious how he McGuyver's his way out of a sticky situation in another episode. An extended chase scene on a tramline may be the film's pièce de résistance, as it features a massive shootout while Six is handcuffed to a bench. A roving camera and rapid-fire editing enhance the propulsive nature of these scenes. It's pretty amazing to see all of them.

Despite "The Gray Man's" exhilarating - or exhausting - nature, the film strains credibility in its ability to survive every adversity. There's a lot of two-dimensionality here. Lloyd's Wile E. Coyote is Six's confident and righteous Road Runner. There are many parallels between the film and a Looney Tunes cartoon. You might as well mark the numerous explosive devices as "Acme." 

In "The Gray Man," Chris Evans portrays Lloyd Hansen, and Jessica Henwick portrays Suzanne Brewer. 

The fact that Chris Evans is playing an over-the-top bad guy with his "white pants and trash stache" almost makes one cheer for Wile, er, Lloyd. The actor goes into the too-cool-for-school "Drive" mode once again as Six. It's mildly enjoyable whenever he's brought down a peg - like when Dani Miranda saves his bacon. The number of times Gosling is called a "Ken doll" is the same number of shirtless scenes he appears in displaying his impressive chest.

Page's portrayal of Carmichael is both petty and beautiful. As Six, he could easily embody grace under pressure, which would have been a better fit for him. The "Bridgerton" star has to sweat out being found out as Carmichael, and that's not a good look. 

Despite a series of reversals in fortune, "The Gray Man" reveals the ultimate outcome pretty quickly. Another entertaining bit features Laszlo Sosa (a fabulous Wagner Moura, hamming it up) as an operative who helps Six with a passport among other things. There's a terrific scene with Fitzroy's contact Margaret Cahill (Alfre Woodard) helping out, and there's some clever, coded spy dialogue. 

It is much more interesting to watch these episodes than the backstory of Six (cue tired father issues), Lloyd torturing someone for information, or even the lackluster sequence in which Six babysits Claire to allow them to bond. The needle drops are also extended, which should juice things up, but they don't. 

One of the most notable problems is the film's lack of punch when Six and Lloyd finally engage in mano-a-mano combat, after running through a hedge maze at night. When Gosling and Evans fight in a water fountain, there should be some intense action, but it feels strangely underwhelming - especially after the movie's excellent action sequences. 

It is not a bad thing, but "The Gray Man" could have been better. I find that it is both mindless and thrilling at the same time - not unlike "Extraction" or "The Old Guard."