‘A lump of generic subscriber bait’ – critics are not sold on Netflix’s new action-spectacular

‘A lump of generic subscriber bait’ – critics are not sold on Netflix’s new action-spectacular

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Netflix’s new and supremely expensive blockbuster, The Gray Man, arrives on the platform tomorrow (July 15) and the critics’ reactions are in.

The movie, which has cost a reported $200 million to make, is based on Mark Greaney’s book series of the same name. It follows Ryan Gosling’s CIA agent Court Gentry – aka Sierra Six, a highly-skilled, agency-sanctioned operative, who suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the CIA and on the run. Gentry must try to stay one step ahead of Chris Evans’ former CIA cohort Lloyd Hansen, who hunts Sierra Six in a globe-trotting adventure that’s sure to test the allegiances of everyone involved. 

Starring alongside Gosling and Evans are No Time To Die’s Ana de Armas, Bridgerton‘s Regé-Jean Page, 12 Years A Slave’s Alfre Woodard, and The Matrix Resurrections‘ Jessica Henwick, with The Russo Brothers, the men who took charge of Marvel Cinematic Universe megahits Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War, directing. 

TechRadar’s own review of The Gray Man was largely positive, praising the movie’s action sequences, the script’s use of suspense and the performances of Gosling and Evans, but bemoaning the generic nature of the plot. 

The wider reaction from critics has been decidedly mixed, there are some good reviews, all with the same caveat about the movie’s story, but mostly, critics are unimpressed with Netflix’s lavish new action-spectacular. At the moment, The Gray Man has a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn’t terrible. But it’s a long way from the 97% rating 2022’s biggest action hit, Top Gun: Maverick, currently enjoys. Some critics have been particularly mean, though. 

How mean are we talking?

Very mean indeed.

The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Colin (opens in new tab) gave it two stars, writing that the movie was “a supermarket own-brand take on the Mission: Impossible series, with Ryan Gosling as our Asda Smart Price Tom Cruise”, Blu-Ray’s Brian Orndorf (opens in new tab) went even harder, calling The Gray Man “A bad parody of a terrible Michael Bay movie.”

Slant’s Chris Barsanti wrote that Netflix’s new action tear-up is a “noisy, flashy spectacle that piles clichés atop ludicrous plotting and sprinkles it all with half-funny quips”, while A.A Dowd of Digital Trends (opens in new tab) really took the movie to task, calling it a “…charmless new action movie is a veritable tag cloud of keywords adapted into a lump of generic subscriber bait.”

The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey (opens in new tab)compared the movie to Red Notice, calling it “…oddly limp and airless, one of Netflix’s $200m action films that will be on their landing page today and instantly forgotten tomorrow”, David Sexton of the New Statesman (opens in new tab) felt the same, he wrote that The Gray Man was “… a dire example of movie-making by algorithm” and felt “…carefully calculated, wholly corporate product, entirely predictable and devoid of any authorship or originality.”

Did anyone like it? 

A good few did, including TechRadar, of course.  

Empire’s John Nugent (opens in new tab) gave it four stars and called the movie “…a pacy, ruggedly entertaining romp, with a punchy pair of lead turns from Gosling and Evans, and The Times’ Kevin Maher (opens in new tab) gave it the same score and wrote that movie provided “Two hours of giddily propulsive action cinema”. 

Entertainment Weekly’s Leah Greenblatt (opens in new tab) liked it, too, writing that movie represented “…red-meat candy, a Bourne Identity for brains thoroughly trained in over-stimulation, and already long gone on summer holiday”, and The Evening Standard’s Charlotte O’Sullivan (opens in new tab) praised the movie, ending her review with “This is not a film weighed down by the need to be deep. But, it’s a hoot.”

A quick glance through Rotten Tomatoes and you will find quite a few bright red vegetables among the green splats. Reviewers are united that the movie brings nothing new to the action movie genre, but some have enjoyed it none the less while others found it to be borderline offensive. 

The Gray Man arrives on Netflix tomorrow (Friday, July 22) – keep an eye out for our chat with the Russo brothers on their new film and more this weekend – and is backed by a huge marketing campaign. In roughly 10 days’ time, when Netflix publish its weekly results, we’ll learn how many viewers have ignored the critics’ tongue-lashings and given it a watch. 

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tom.goodwyn@futurenet.com (Tom Goodwyn)

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