NewsBusters: Should we be shocked that according to reviews Sean Penn’s new movie, The Gunman, is turning out to be the Venezuelan economy of action thrillers? Not at all. After all, Penn, the Hugo Chavez fan boy, co-wrote the screenplay. And just as Chavez/Madurro socialist tropes inevitably led to a workers’ paradise chronically short of toilet paper, Sean Penn’s anti-corporate instincts led to a thriller chronically short of thrills.
The Gunman earned a pathetic 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. (For comparison, Run All Night, the current Liam Neeson shoot-em-up that’s struggling at the box office scored 59 percent. Neeson recently annoyed a good chunk of his audience with a stupidly hypocritical rant about guns. Penn lost those people decades ago.)
When you can’t get critics from the LA Times, The Guardian, NPR and the New York Times to put a happy face on your anti-American agitprop film, it must be some kind of stinker.
Penn plays a former assassin for hire haunted by things he did in Africa on behalf of big corporations that that have an interest third world in instability and bloodshed. Apparently he tries atone by doing Gaia’s work for an NGO when his old life sucks him back in, etc, etc, etc. Some of the best review lines:
- “If the film’s intent is to condition the audience into a distaste for violence through boredom, it succeeds.” – Peter Keough, Boston Globe
- “The self-seriousness is way out of touch with the realities of the production. This is a fundamentally stupid movie about a muscular superman beating and shooting the living hell out of all those who would cross him. It’s not an apologia for continental destruction.” – Robert Levin, AMNew York
- “A lightweight thriller posing as a heavy political drama, or vice-versa. Not thoughtful and no fun.” – Rafer Guzman, Newsday
- “Watching Penn pump iron and denounce capitalism for two hours would be roughly as illuminating as this monotonous Euro-thriller.” – Kyle Smith, New York Post
- “In fact, no one in The Gunman looks happy.” – Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
How did The Gunman do in it’s opening weekend? Just $5 million.
Variety: “The weekend’s other major wide release, “The Gunman,” fired blanks, picking up a meager $5 million and seemingly deep-sixing Sean Penn’s plans to be an aging action star. Open Road distributed the film in 2,816 theaters and had expected a debut in the $8 million range. “The Gunman’s” modest results were good enough for a fourth place finish in an otherwise slow weekend. The Gunman’s” roughly $40 million production budget was fully funded by StudioCanal.”