Well, you couldn't accuse him of being in a rush - some of us have only been waiting 24 years to see Sean Penn lock and load like he did during the finale of Irish mob gem State of Grace. Now, aged 54, he stars in his first bona fide action-thriller, albeit one which also takes shots at big business. The best bits of The Gunman prove that Penn should have done more of this kind of stuff years ago; the disappointments say he had enough time to choose a project where everything was perfect.
Penn's Jim Terrier is a former security contractor haunted by his past, and specifically what he did for his pay packet in Africa in 2006. Atoning for his sins by working for an NGO, Terrier is forced to go on the run when the present turns nasty. His route takes him to London and then Spain as he tries to put the pieces together, knowing that his chances of a getaway are diminishing by the hour.
From hand-to-hand combat to shootouts, Penn looks the part, with the big jaw-dropper in The Gunman just how ripped he is for a man of his years. Now, if only the script was in as good a shape.
Interesting characters don't get enough of a look-in here with the villains, in particular, a big letdown - staggering giving the quality of the cast assembled. There's also some emotional backstory that doesn't help either the tension or pacing. Ultimately, Penn's burnout gravitas and the quality of Taken director Morel's set-pieces just about save the day.
Whatever about a sequel here, someone should really try to get Penn on board for the next Bourne film.