There is nothing I can possibly add to Christopher Orr's wondrous, spoiler-filled takedown of The Gunman, in which the insufferably righteous Sean Penn attempts to recast himself as a grizzled action star, a la Liam Neeson:
Every word is worth reading, but this how it starts:
Sometimes a movie is so manifestly ill-conceived that the best one can do is throw up one’s hands in surrender and acknowledge the truth: It is impossible to indict this film as thoroughly as it indicts itself.
I’ve gone down this road a handful of times before. M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening and Jason Reitman’s Labor Day (career lows for both directors) demanded straightforward recapitulations. The Words (starring Bradley Cooper) required a run-on sentence and Broken City (Mark Wahlberg) an actual diagram. Then along came Luc Besson’s Lucy, starring Scarlett Johannson, which in many ways put all the rest to shame.
And so, with another awful cinematic experience—Sean Penn’s new vanity project, The Gunman—comes another prophylactic spoilereview. In brief, the movie is a dull, generic retread of nearly every action movie you’ve ever seen, with the reluctant super-soldier haunted by his past and enmeshed in a conspiracy, etc., etc. But it's made far worse by Penn’s self-seriousness as an actor, by the banal and insulting political pieties that he's grafted on as producer and co-writer, and by the presence of perhaps the most pitifully retrograde female lead role to appear onscreen in the past two decades.
And it only gets better.