I was apprehensive to see Gunman because I am sick of damsel in distress stories. They are played out and to some extent sexist. At the risk of flooding this site with hateful comments, here is a video that explains my standing:
Furthermore, director Pierre Morel is known for Taken and I am not awfully fond of French style action films. They hold almost exclusively to a formula that started out original until it was overdone. Most films are the same when deconstructed, but once I have seen the same gruff, Neeson-esque protagonist on hunt for his kidnapped female counterpart, over and over, why would I keep watching? Did Gunman put me to sleep or is it worth your time?
To my surprise there was no damsel until Act 3. The usual French action tropes are present, but in the context of a theme most people could relate.
The story follows Terrier, played by Sean Penn, a former mercenary working for a humanitarian NGO in the Congo. After an attempt on his life he reconnects with his old ways to find out who is after him.
It is important to note the film focuses on the subject of corporations manipulating the social and political climate of foreign countries in the interest of business. The depiction is rather blunt and straightforward, utilizing faux news segments to tell the audience what is happening. In a film like this they were a welcome addition, if a little too in-your-face as it slaps you with its message.
Unlike typical French action tropes, I could tell what was happening because the camera was not shaking like an epileptic. A few sequences had cool setups, punctuated by a level of brutality that was fun to watch. I expect nothing less from writer Pete Travis who also directed Dredd.
The main problem is the great yet under utilized cast. Javier Bardem is present for about 30 minutes and he was the best part by far. Idris Elba shows up for a glorified cameo and does nothing. What was the point of casting such talented people only to not use them?
Gunman is harmless. It does everything better without being different. I recommend it, but if you want deep complexity, save your money.