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Movie Review: The Gunman – Watch it only for Sean Penn

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Movie Review: the gunman

Cast: Sean Penn, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone, Idris Elba, Jasmine Trinca, Mark Ryland

Director: Pierre Morel

At age 54, Sean Penn has a divine body which is shown to advantage in this political thriller about greedy capitalists (specifically, Western multinationals) who plunder Third World resources (in this case, the Democratic Republic of Congo) and meddle in their politics. (DRC is the same country that was invaded by the Tutsi government in Rwanda in 1996, 1998 and 2004 in a hunt for Hutu tribesmen and armed “soldiers,” who slaughtered about 800,000 Tutsis during the infamous Rwandan genocide in 1994. Which doesn’t mean Indians, Chinese, and Saudis can act holier than thou).


Directed by Pierre ‘Taken’ Morel) with a screenplay adapted from a novel by the French crime writer Jean-Patrick Marchette, the film was shot Africa, Spain and England and  stars Penn as the  titular sniper on a mercenary team, who assassinates the Congolese minister of mines. Penn’s screen avatar is called Jim Terrier, a former Special Forces commando now employed for a security firm connected to a mining multi.

Terrier has a passionate affair with volunteer doctor Annie (Jasmine Trinca, lovely) but the spectacularly successful hit sends him into hiding (and a life of comparative ease in London). Returning to Africa, eight years later by way of atonement, he finds he is being hunted himself.

Viewers are supposed to root for this mercenary who suffered brain damage while fighting the War on Terror in the Middle East and now sets about trying to unravel the mystery which is solved after much blood-letting in a (well-executed) showdown at a bullfight (Animal lovers will be pleased to know bullfights have been banned in Barcelona for some years now).

Terrier’s rival in romance Felix (Javier Bardem, smooth as the alcoholic beverages his screen persona consumes to excess) is one of the first to go. That is, meet his Maker. Too soon we say, too soon. Likewise, Idris Elba is reduced to a cameo. But the film belongs to Penn.