The Gray Man First Reviews: Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans Elevate an Action-Heavy Blockbuster

Critics are split on the Netflix spy thriller, which looks and feels expensive and benefits from the charms of its big-name leads, but feels like a bit less than the sum of its parts.

by | July 14, 2022 | Comments


Netflix’s latest action movie, The Gray Man, is also the biggest ever to arrive on the streaming service. With a reported budget of $200 million, the spy flick aims to compete with the studios’ summer blockbusters, and according to the first reviews of the movie, it does an outstanding job of it. Courtesy of some thrilling stunts directed by Avengers: Endgame helmers Joe and Anthony Russo and the charisma and chemistry of stars Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, and Ana de Armas, The Gray Man might even be the perfect start to a popular new action franchise.

Here’s what critics are saying about The Gray Man:

Has Netflix scored a solid blockbuster?

The Russos have unleashed what may stand as the best pure action movie of 2022. – Don Shanahan, Every Movie Has a Lesson

The action is some of the best you’re likely to see this year – and yes, that includes Top Gun: Maverick. – Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior

Does it look expensive?

The Gray Man is Netflix’s most expensive movie ever, and it shows. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Holy potatoes, did they put every dollar of it into a substantial extravaganza of mayhem… lavish enough to compete with the Jason Bourne films and the current Mission: Impossible and Fast and Furious juggernauts. – Don Shanahan, Every Movie Has a Lesson

It’s a Bond-level summer blockbuster. – Peter Debruge, Variety

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have made a tentpole blockbuster with action and carnage on the scale of one of their Marvel movies. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

Once the scale becomes such that computers need to step in and provide the special effects, this very expensive movie begins to look very cheap… Netflix did not get their money’s worth out of their VFX. – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Ryan Gosling as Six in The Gray Man

(Photo by ©Netflix)

How does it compare to other Netflix movies?

The Gray Man feels like a step above the streamer’s past action movies, offering more exciting fight sequences, more uproarious humor, and a more completely entertaining movie experience. – Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

This [might not be] Netflix’s smartest action film, but it’s definitely one of the most fun. – Richard Trenholm, CNET

The cinematography is better than average for a Netflix movie, backing off the usual orange and teal. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

This is the most exciting original action property Netflix has delivered since Bright. – Peter Debruge, Variety

It feels a step up from other Netflix blockbusters like Red Notice. – James Mottram, South China Morning Post

For a Netflix action picture with huge stars, The Gray Man is better, certainly, than Red Notice, but not as good as Extraction. – Jordan Hoffman, TV Guide

What about other big action movies in general?

The Gray Man is up there with the stylized likes of Atomic Blonde and might give John Wick a run for his money. – Richard Trenholm, CNET

It twists all of its Bourne and Bond influences into something quite different but equally exceptional. – Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior

None of The Gray Man’s still-Bourne thrills are executed with the precise elegance of John Wick, the winking doggery of James Bond or the joyful craftsmanship of Mission: Impossible. – Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

It feels closer in tone and spirit to Michael Bay’s gonzo ’90s action movies, where trivial details like logic and coherence took a backseat to adrenalized spectacle. – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

Ryan Gosling as Six in The Gray Man

(Photo by ©Netflix)

So is the action good?

The Gray Man has some of the most bonkers action sequences I’ve seen, from a stunning hand-to-hand combat scene in a fireworks staging area to a daring escape from a crashing plane and a high-speed pursuit atop a runaway metro car in the middle of Prague. – Joey Morona, Cleveland Plain Dealer

The car chases are full of tactile, nail-biting stunts, the action scenes explosive, and the Russo brothers are the latest filmmakers to try their hand at replicating the heights of that Dark Knight Hong Kong fight scene. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

There’s one spectacular set piece set within a plaza in Prague that then goes onto a train, and it’s as good as anything from last year’s Shang-Chi, at least in terms of the action. – Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior

The action is non-stop if a little numbing in the way hundreds of people get mowed down without a drop of blood. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

A ridiculous freefall sequence looks, even when not compared to its exhilarating peer in Mission: Impossible—Fallout, like Spirit Airlines flushed a GoPro. – Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

How is the Gosling vs. Evans match-up?

Each time Gosling and Evans face-off, the only word for it is delightful. Their hand-to-hand battles are clever and frenetic. – Sherin Nicole,

When Gosling and Evans go toe-to-toe — either with gibes or fists — they’re the most exhilarating scenes in The Gray Man. – Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

Gosling and Evans put in two brilliantly yin/yang performances. – Linda Marric, The Jewish Chronicle

You can’t help but get caught up in the sensation of seeing these two Hollywood stars duke it out in a battle of wills. – Matt Neglia, Next Best Picture

Ryan Gosling as Six in The Gray Man

(Photo by ©Netflix)

Does Ryan Gosling have the right action chops?

Gosling’s never done a major action movie on this level… He’s built his body up to almost Schwarzenegger level here and excels at all the mayhem. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

Gosling, meanwhile, brings just the right amount of dry humor to the role; he hasn’t been this laid-back since playing the wheelman in Drive. – James Mottram, South China Morning Post

Gosling might be wasted for all his talents, but he’s at least always magnetic to watch even if he seems like he’s just on the cusp of having fun. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

As dull as this is, Gosling excels at it… [He] is the best part of a film that doesn’t seem to know how lucky it is to have him. – Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

Is Chris Evans a good villain?

Evans seems to channel his character in Knives Out, taking glee in how evil he is – he’s basically anti-Captain America. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

Chris Evans was always meant to be a character actor because he’s just so great in the role of a know-it-all sociopath who doesn’t put up with failure from those he hires. – Edward Douglas, The Weekend Warrior

Evans is a delight to see cut loose, acting comically unhinged and still retaining an intimidating presence. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Evans’s performance is, alas, the only notable thing in this preposterous, globe-trotting movie. – Jordan Hoffman, TV Guide

Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda in The Gray Man

(Photo by ©Netflix)

How is Ana de Armas?

De Armas brings some depth to [her character]… and certainly proves her action chops after being underused in No Time to Die. – Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

Her attitude and style are impressive. She seems born to lead action movies and might be the next big female action star. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

De Armas needs to star in more of everything, she refuses to be damselled, she does the saving and she excels at it. – Sherin Nicole,

De Armas is given [a] somewhat thankless role… but boy, is she fun to watch. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

The script doesn’t even give her much of a personality apart from obligatory super-badassness… This is a waste of the white-hot star of the moment. – Richard Trenholm, CNET

Are there any other standouts in the cast?

Dhanush is a standout in The Gray Man… [His] action scenes are some of the best in the movie. – Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

The movie is almost stolen by Tamil star Dhanush, who waltzes in like he’s the lead in his action movie and seems like a no-brainer to get a spin-off. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

Julia Butters, who plays Claire Fitzroy, is a star on the rise. – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

How is the writing?

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely do a great job balancing emotional undertones along with the big action set pieces. – Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction

Joe Russo along with his Marvel screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have crafted an intriguing, even playful battle of wits between the charming CIA assassin with a heart and his unhinged adversary. – Joey Morona, Cleveland Plain Dealer

It has something thematically to say about trust and family and succeeds on all counts, not least because of a very smart script with a lot of pithy dialogue for Gosling and Evans in particular. – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

The world-building is a bit exhausting, as it takes the focus away from Gosling’s Gentry too often. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

The screenplay contains several silly moments with the kind of lines that a fifth grader could’ve come up with. – Matt Neglia, Next Best Picture

Chris Evans as Lloyd Hansen in The Gray Man

(Photo by ©Netflix)

Should we try to see this in theaters?

It’s definitely recommended to watch The Gray Man on the biggest screen possible. – Molly Freeman, Screen Rant

Netflix won’t like me for saying this, but see it in a theater if you can. – Joey Morona, Cleveland Plain Dealer

It was especially fun to see it in a packed theater, where the crowd clearly ate it up… [but] it is edge-of-your-seat action, even if that means edge of your own couch. – Pete Hammond, Deadline Hollywood Daily

It definitely feels like a movie made for 4K TVs rather than theaters. – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo’s Movie Network

It’s a movie that’s made to be half-watched on Netflix while scrolling on your phone. – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Will we want a sequel?

Based on the initial outing, a Gray Man franchise seems like a smart bet. – Joey Morona, Cleveland Plain Dealer

If sequels are coming, as has been hinted, we’re ready for the next 49 shades of Gray. – John Nugent, Empire Magazine

There is some unfinished business to attend to once the credits roll, which will most likely lead to a sequel. Is it warranted? Probably not. – Matt Neglia, Next Best Picture

The Gray Man opens in select theaters on July 15, 2022 and streams on Netflix on July 22, 2022.

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