Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Anthony and Joe Russo are brothers who are regarded as the second-most, commercially successful directors of all time, behind Steven Spielberg. This is due in part because they were the men in charge of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019), which were blockbusters that both made over $2 billion each. The latter came close to making $3 billion. They spent five years making super-hero films for Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU. Prior to that, they were known for their comedic films. Since escaping the MCU, they’ve mainly been limited to making action thrillers or films involving men with guns.
Often those films have involved pulling actors from their MCU flicks. Their first foray away from the MCU was Extraction (2020), which they technically didn’t direct but did write and produce. Extraction was an adaptation of a graphic novel about a black ops mercenary who gets embroiled in a plot in Southeast Asia, specifically coming up against an Indian operative. Basically, it involved a MCU actor playing a man good at ballistics and hand-to-hand combat, trying to avoid being killed by numerous people gunning for him. This film is essentially the same thing.
Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049 and La La Land) stars as Sierra Six, a man from Florida who was recruited to work for the CIA in 2003 after being convicted of murder. He spends almost 20 years training and becoming the best black ops mercenary that has ever been. He seems to work mainly as an assassin. When his latest target provides him with intelligence that points back to the agency and the people who employ him in a conspiracy revealing corruption within the government, Sierra Six is himself targeted to be captured and killed.
With the exception of amnesia, it’s akin to The Bourne Identity (2002). One could also draw comparisons to Mission: Impossible (1996) and John Wick (2014). However, the Russo brothers seemed to have adopted their directing style this time from Michael Bay. The frenetic pacing, wild camera moves and super-quick editing are very similar to what Bay utilizes, often to dizzying and sometimes boring effect. It’s easy to be dazzled or awed by the mayhem, which goes by in a fast swirl, but it’s also easy to have it all pass over your head with no care or even weight to hold it down.
Chris Evans (Captain America: Civil War and Knives Out) co-stars as Lloyd Hansen, a former CIA agent who also works as a black ops mercenary. He’s obviously playing against type, not playing the all-American hero, but instead a psychopath who delights in torturing people and killing without hesitation. He also is a bit of comic relief, using humor to help the audience swallow his evil actions. He certainly leans into that humor to the point that he’s almost a cartoon character here. Gosling engages his usual, charming deadpan, whereas Evans is shooting for the rafters.
As such, the film never conveys the menace that he is perhaps supposed to be. It doesn’t help that last year I saw a film that utilizes a character like Lloyd better. Joe Carnahan’s Copshop (2021) wields a character that is similar to Lloyd, but Carnahan’s film is more successful in conveying the menace and fear that this character is supposed to exude. Carnahan accomplishes those emotions. The Russo brothers do not. It’s instead comedic and rather silly. The film is more concerned with crafting “very busy” martial arts scenes, crammed as full as they can possibly be and executed at a break-neck speed. Unfortunately, these scenes are less Tom Cruise and more Tom Holland, meaning these scenes don’t have the authenticity or verisimilitude that Cruise insists upon but instead the cartoonish acrobatics that we’ve seen Holland execute, particularly in his recent Uncharted (2022).
Ana de Armas (Blade Runner 2049 and Knives Out) plays Dani Miranda, a CIA agent who works with Sierra Six to accomplish his mission of assassination. When she learns of the conspiracy, she teams up with Sierra Six to survive and hopefully expose the truth. She’s mainly just an action figure, a sexy sidekick to Sierra Six without much characterization otherwise. She’s given good moments of shooting, fighting and even driving, but she’s only a slight step-up from the female characters in The Fast and the Furious franchise.
There’s also a myriad of supporting or guest stars here to help fill out the world of this espionage thriller. Some of them are more impactful than others. Billy Bob Thornton (Friday Night Lights and Armageddon) is impactful as Donald Fitzroy, the man who recruits Sierra Six. Alfre Woodard (Captain America: Civil War and Star Trek: First Contact) plays Maggie Cahill, another ex-CIA operative, and she’s impactful. Regé-Jean Page (Bridgerton) isn’t impactful. He felt like a waste. Julia Butters (American Housewife) plays Claire Fitzroy, the niece to Thornton’s character. The film tries to do a similar dynamic as Man on Fire (2004), but the film doesn’t quite sell it all that well. Dhanush who is a Kollywood star plays “Lone Wolf.” He gets a couple of good action scenes but is wasted otherwise.
Rated PG-13 for violence and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 9 mins.
Available on Netflix.