In the end, Netflix gets everyone. Following Martin Scorsese, Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Hemsworth and Oscar winner Jane Campion, Ryan Gosling is the latest addition to the streamer’s portfolio, which seems to be starting to follow the laws of the cinema market. From Marvel directors Joe and Anthony Russo, based on the novels by thriller writer Mark Greaney, The Gray Man is set to kick off the first Netflix franchise. Ten novels about CIA agent Court Gentry, codenamed Sierra Six, have already been published, so there’s sure to be more to come.
Netflix has the advantage that the profitability of such projects is not tied to viewership. Nevertheless, a lot of money has been invested to ensure that this premiere runs smoothly. At an estimated $200 million, “The Gray Man” is the most expensive Netflix production, more expensive than the action comedies “Red Notice” and “6 Underground”, which, however, could be classified as “content” in terms of quality: there to boost the algorithms.
The main purpose of “The Gray Man” is probably to establish Ryan Gosling with his cute dog eyes – like Matt Damon twenty years ago in the “Bourne” films – as an action hero. In fact, the characters are strongly reminiscent of protagonists from the sort of spy thriller that you buy in the bookstore at the airport to kill boredom. It wouldn’t be surprising if Court Gentry met the same fate as the fictional hero Jack Reacher, who after two movies starring Tom Cruise was trimmed down to become a series hero. “The Gray Man” is a comic-like action vehicle without narrative finesse – but with greetings from the military entertainment complex, which has provided an impressive arsenal of weapons. The action scenes are also reminiscent of the green screen excesses that the Russo brothers were able to gain experience with in their Marvel films.
The eponymous shadowy figure is Gosling’s Court Gentry, who is called in for the particularly difficult cases. Gosling doesn’t believe the ice-cold contract killer anyway, but the Russos and their co-author Christopher Markus don’t even bother to discover ambivalences in his character. He is the good guy with a gun who is suddenly cleared to be shot down after a plot involving an illegally operating CIA unit under Denny Carmichael (“Bridgerton” actor Regé-Jean Page).
A USB stick(!) with incriminating data ends up in the mail in Prague, on the desk of retired CIA director Maurice Cahill (Alfre Woodard) – alongside his former client Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton) and agent Dani, who was also sidelined Miranda (Ana de Armas) Gentry’s last ally in the company. That’s where the first big action set takes place, which the Russos stage with military precision. (There’s something you have to learn about a Marvel set, after all.)
CIA bloodhound Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) as Gentry’s adversary, who is supposed to kill the ex-colleague on behalf of Carmichael and is given a free hand for it, makes a decisive contribution to the comic appeal of “The Gray Man”. Evans plays the psychopathic Hansen as a cartoon villain bordering on the awkward. But with that he sets the right tone for a film that can’t decide whether it prefers “Mission Impossible” or “Fast
It’s hard to imagine that Gosling has committed himself to an entire series of films. In general, you can’t really make sense of the Netflix strategy at the moment. The subscription service is stagnating, so the cinema seems to be proving to be a more and more lucrative addition – although the largest cinema chain in Germany, Cinemaxx, is still boycotting Netflix. But expensive bulk goods like “The Gray Man” might be better off on streaming platforms, even in a summer like this one with few blockbusters.
In 13 cinemas. Coming to Netflix on July 22nd