ON the surface of it, The Gunman is a study about the humanitarian cost brought about by private contractors operating in destitute African countries.
Penn has something in common with Neeson in that French director Pierre Morel, who directed The Gunman, also directed Neeson in Taken. In both films, elderly white men take centrestage and show everyone that they're not to be messed with.
Terrier (Penn) is an assassin working for a private contractor in Congo. He's on top of his game as he can blow away someone from a long distance. He's also attractive because he's got a stunning and younger girlfriend (Italian Jasmine Trinca, 34). After two occurrences of them making love, Terrier gazes lovingly at her slender legs.
He skips the country but returns eight years later to build water pipes (hah!) for an NGO, assuaging his guilt for the terrible things he has wrought on the country. He's also prone to surfing when it's forbidden, but this gives viewers a chance to observe his sinewy body.
To cut a long story short, he goes on the run when he realises he's been marked for termination. He catches up with his now married ex, who still has the hots for him, and they make passionate love.
All hell then breaks loose and Terrier lets loose his armada of skills and violence, going to great and creative lengths to dispose of his enemies.
One scene I enjoyed was when he turned the tables on two Spanish baddies.
The Italian woman plays no significant role in the film other than to be used as a bait by kidnappers.
The Gunman can be likened to Neeson's Run All Night, in that both male protagonists have committed tonnes of killings in the past and are now burdened by the weight of their guilt. But they're given a chance to redeem themselves ... by killing more people to reach that goal.
While I found Run All Night a tad more entertaining due to Neeson's imposing presence, The Gunman shows Penn shooting himself in the foot with a run-of-mill characterisation.
2 out of 5 stars