“The Gray Man” puts Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in spy mode as Netflix bets on the action

(CNN) — The greatest effort in “The Gray Man” does not come from Ryan Gosling or Chris Evans (not that they are lazy), but from the cast in general, which includes Ana de Armas after her role as Bond, as well as Regé-Jean Page after “Bridgerton”, Jessica Henwick (“Matrix”) and Indian star Dhanush. The script, unfortunately, is a bit weak, but given the demands, it’s probably enough to get the job done.

In fact, “The Gray Man” belongs to the “Red Notice” school, Netflix action movies that are noisy but not very colorful, and in which the cast, the social media influence and the credibility of the superheroes they make quality basically irrelevant. No matter the movie, just the poster, which includes the directors of “Avengers”, the Russo brothers, practically ensures astronomical figures of “minutes watched”.

Even less than “Red,” however, “The Gray Man” doesn’t live up to the hype, which includes the obligatory early theatrical release to grease the wheels of its assault on streaming.

Based on the book series, the film serves as the latest take on the Bond-Bourne genre, but even more than most spy-versus-spy antics, it plays as an excuse for the elaborate action sequences and stunt work of madness, which produce some genuine highlights, but also produce gradually diminishing returns, especially down the stretch.

Whether Gosling wants a future as the shadowy CIA hitman known only as Six (he jokes that 007 was already taken) remains to be seen, but this represents a modest if perhaps unavoidable addition to his eclectic résumé. To underscore this point, Evans’s character mockingly refers to him as a “Ken doll,” a sly reference to his upcoming foray into the ins and outs of the film franchise.

Gosling’s Court Gentry is brought out of jail, naturally, to kill for the CIA, operating in a gray realm that, quoting the old song, gives him a number and takes his name away. However, Six’s latest mission lands him with information that makes him dangerous to those above him, threatening everyone from his colleague in that operation (De Armas) to the now-retired controller (Billy Bob). Thornton) who recruited him.

However, taking down Six will require large-caliber weapons, which explains why those who want to kill him recruit Lloyd Hansen (Evans), a sociopathic hit man who boasts that he “can kill anyone”—a claim that Six will put to the test—and who cares little about collateral damage or keeping “covert” actions top secret, to an almost comical degree.

The chase takes the protagonists around the world and, to up the ante, includes a girl in peril with a heart problem (Julia Butters, who is already developing quite a resume after “Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood”) ) to give Six something to fight for beyond himself.

The script (by co-director Joe Russo, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely) includes a bit of sly humor, and Evans, in particular, seems to enjoy the villains after his squeaky-clean star image. Even so, a torture sequence to show how bad it is ends up being somewhat gratuitous.

Ultimately, “The Gray man” is an unintentionally appropriate title to describe a film that exists within such a narrow band of the cinematic spectrum. While it’s a step up from the Russos’ last streaming effort, the somber “Cherry,” it’s the equivalent of an old-fashioned “B” movie with an A-level cast and budget.

At one point, Six dismisses the risks and punishment she endures by saying, “Just another Thursday.” While “The Gray Man” isn’t all that mundane, in the larger scheme of Netflix’s adventures in making hit movies, it feels like just another action flick.

“The Gray Man” opens in select US theaters this Friday, July 15, and on Netflix on July 22. It is rated PG-13.

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