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Real spies don’t walk into casinos wearing tailored tuxedos to order memorable martinis. They’re gray men, bland and instantly forgettable. But The Gray Man (based on a popular novel), a new and insanely expensive movie from Netflix, isn’t trying for realism. Rather than a contemplative cocktail of ideas, this is an energy drink of visceral thrills. 

Ryan Gosling (who really hit the gym for his shirtless scene) plays Sierra Six, the laconic CIA killer with a heart of gold. Recruited right out of prison by Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thorton) after proving he was willing to kill bad men, Six has taken numerous assignments around the world. We see in flashbacks that he also served as bodyguard for Claire (Julia Butters), Fitzroy’s orphaned niece with a heart condition. 

After completing a mission in Bangkok, Six learns his target was Sierra Four and fears he might be next. The dying man slips him a computer chip with government secrets and Six goes on the run. To catch him, the CIA brings in Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans), a character that seems to have wandered in from a completely different movie. Lloyd is so slimy that if his mustache was longer he’d give it a twirl. First, he kidnaps Fitzroy and Claire. Then he puts a bounty on Six to attract every mercenary in the world. And just to establish his villainous bona fides, he ties Claire to a railroad track. I’m kidding. He rips out Fitzroy’s fingernails. 

As Six is running toward the people who want to kill him, he’s aided by fellow spy Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas). They keep their relationship professional, though our numerically named hero isn’t the only one getting quippy. 

The Russo brothers, best known for their work in the MCU, direct this thriller-like superhero movie on speed. Six only stays in a major city long enough to survive another bout of catastrophic mayhem before moving onto the next one. Expect sweeping drone shots, massive explosions, fistfights, gunfights, and car chases galore. Don’t expect The Gray Man to stimulate your gray matter. 

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). Early in the film, Six refuses to pull the trigger because he might hit a child. So he’s good(ish). Later, Lloyd promises to murder Claire. So he’s bad. That’s about as deep as this movie goes. Six doesn’t overcome his enemy in the way Paul prescribes, of course. Six is the gray man, after all. 

Compared to John Wick and similar ballistic ballets, the consequences of the violence here are fairly tame and bloodless, despite the high body count. The profanity is kept within the boundaries of its PG-13 rating, too. However, it’s so typical of its genre it might fade from memory once the caffeine buzz subsides. (Netflix)

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