The Gunman

Posted: March 31, 2016 in film

(Spoilers ahead!) The Gunman (2015) is a moderately entertaining tale of a corporate mercenary/assassin, Jim Terrier (Sean Penn), who flees Africa after a particularly brutal assassination of a government official. Per plan, he flees the continent where he’d been posing as NGO security, and leaves his girlfriend Annie (Jasmine Trinca) behind in the dubious care of a jealous boss (Javier Bardem).The Gunman

Eight years later, post-change of heart about the merits of assassination work, while working for an NGO back in Africa (this time legitimately), Jim escapes an assassination attempt and sets out to uncover the motives and identities of those who want him dead. In the process, he reconnects with Annie, now married to the former boss, uncovers a plot (again corporate) to kill him, and manages to escape with Annie while killing the bad guys and ultimately turning himself in to Interpol.

Just before the end, an Interpol agent tells him: “…but after what you’ve done. You’re going to serve time. It’s gonna be tough, Jim.” Luckily for our protagonist, his time in prison passes relatively quickly. So quickly, in fact, we don’t even see it. He goes from the funeral of a slain friend to (we have to assume, since we don’t actually see it transpire at all) a somewhat lengthy prison stay. He reappears a few seconds later (movie time), back in Africa, reunited with Annie, ready to resume a virtuous life doing good NGO things.

The part I’m stuck on is this: can a killer-by-choice really be redeemed? The film clearly wants us to believe he can, painting him in a sympathetic light almost immediately, allowing him to overcome his obstacles with hyper-efficient heroism, and transitioning to a happy ending so quickly the intervening prison term is but a dream.

But having irrevocably taken a life, even a fictional one, should we, the audience, applaud this antihero? I’m not sure I agree with the conclusion the film-makers have delivered. If redemption is possible, it shouldn’t be so easy. I wish the film-makers had worked a little harder to earn our approval/forgiveness. Robert De Niro did it in The Mission, and even then, I’m not sure he found the complete redemption he sought, but at least he tried.

  1. Dan O. says:

    Good review. It’s not great, but still has some solid bits of action.


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