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"The Gunman": Sean Penn's Biceps and Western Greed 

Wednesday, Mar 18 2015
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Sean Penn produced and co-wrote this vehicle for himself, apparently using both biceps. With upper body prominently abulge, Penn stars as a former military hit man who once stoked the conflict in Congo, costing himself a ladyfriend (Jasmine Trinca) and a chance to sleep at night. Now, PTSD be damned, he's got to outrun and outgun his own private blowback. Opening with a barrage of cable-news explainers on the general role of Western greed in African strife, director Pierre Morel seems at first glumly resigned to a boring, if Penn-tastic, political harangue. But, being also the director of Taken, Morel finally settles into a rut of action clichés. Odds are beaten, opponents brutally outfoxed, and charismatic actors squandered: Ray Winstone, Javier Bardem, Mark Rylance, and especially Idris Elba, who shows up too late in a too-long movie, and might have made a better impression had he not been credited at all. But Trinca fares the worst in this dour dudes' club, with Penn even seeming to hog all the gratuitous waist-up nudity; even in a bedroom scene with his distressed damsel, she's the only one wearing his shirt. Later, for good measure, he's likened to the bull in a bullfight.

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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