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The Gunman

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for strong violence, language and some sexuality.

Reviewed by: Curtis McParland

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Action Spy Thriller Crime Drama Adaptation
1 hr. 55 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 20, 2015 (wide—2,816 theaters)
DVD: June 30, 2015
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Relevant Issues
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difficulties of suffering from incurable post-concussion syndrome (PCS)

clearing one’s self from false accusations

betrayal by friends and co-workers

results of violent civil wars in Africa

immorality of multinational corporations that exploit Third World resources

good people who sacrifice their own careers to go to Third World nations and personally help those in need through health care, etc.

Copyright, Open Road Films
Sinful actions

sin and the fall of man


sexual immorality and adultery

Compare: goodness and righteousness

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justice of God / Just One

the final judgment of God

Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer

How good is good enough? Answer

Will all mankind eventually be saved? Answer

Copyright, Open Road Films

SUICIDE—What does the Bible say? Answer

If a Christian commits suicide, will they go to Heaven? Answer

Featuring: Sean PennJim Terrier
Idris ElbaDuPont
Javier BardemFelix
Mark Rylance … Cox
Ray WinstoneStanley
Melina Matthews … Cox's secretary
Jasmine Trinca … Annie
Blanca Star Olivera … Tourist
See all »
Director: Pierre Morel—“Taken” (2008), “The Transporter” (2002)—Cinematographer
Producer: Anton Capital Entertainment
See all »
Distributor: Open Road Films

immoral and boring

After assassinating the Minister of Mines of the Congo, sniper Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is forced into hiding as chaos begins to ensue within the region. Jim worked for an unknown client, but now works for a non-profit organization within the Congo. However, years later after the assassination, a hit squad is now after him, which not only threatens Jim’s life, but the lives around him.

Somehow word has spread that Jim was responsible for the minister’s assassination, and now he must go back into hiding, while trying to figure out who is after his life. Jim reconnects with old members from his assassination team and tries to piece this puzzle together. Although his life is in danger, Jim cannot expose any of the identities of his pursuers, because of his past crimes and must solve this case completely on his own—that is, with the help of a few old friends.

”The Gunman” is a completely different take on the “thriller” genre. However, this film is also very boring and hard to follow. Director Pierre Morel helps save this poorly written film with some well-cut action sequences, but this alone cannot save “The Gunman” from its dreary plot. Sean Penn and Javier Bardem’s performances are completely wasted on this near two hour snooze-fest.

Although I do not recommend the film “Taken” (2009), due to its violence, language, and sexual material, it is a much better alternative to “The Gunman.” Ironically, both films are made by the same director, yet “Taken” contains much better writing that drives the plot forward and provides its audience with thrills. You can feel the similarities of the action between “The Gunman” and “Taken,” but “The Gunman” seems to rely too much on action and tries too hard to provide cheap thrills. The graphic violence does nothing but distract its audience from the story.

Content of concern

“The Gunman” contains some sexual content, including an unmarried couple in bed, shirtless men, passionate kissing, and a lone sex scene between a married woman and an unmarried man. There is no nudity, but adultery is clearly on display here. A married woman also removes her shirt in front of an unmarried man exposing her bare body (we only catch a glimpse of her back).

The language is relatively strong., with close to 40 f-words, around a dozen s-words, a few uses of the word b**ard, and two abuses of God’s name paired with the word d**n.

The violence is the most concerning, as the audience is exposed to bloody images of wounded, a man striking a woman (with blood), a character being graphically shot in the head and another being strangled to death. There are many moments of intense gunplay, as characters are shot in the chest, throat, and head. Plenty of kicking, punching, and intense stabbing takes place, and one scene involves a man being graphically stabbed through the throat. The same character viciously has his eye pushed/crushed into his face, and another is graphically gored and trampled by a raging bull. Shovels are also used as weapons, in addition to machetes. Bones and limbs are heard being broken, intense explosions are seen, and characters are also seen set on fire.

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

The drug and alcohol content is fairly mild, as we only see characters smoking cigarettes and drinking is limited to a couple of bar scenes (we see a few drunk characters). An assassin is seen carrying a form of drug antidote on his person, another takes prescription medication for a health condition, and one other character is kept drugged by her captors. A character also vomits a few times due to a health condition.

There really aren’t any redeeming elements to “The Gunman,” for the exception of the typical “bravery” theme and protecting the ones you love. Sean Penn’s character never really appears to be fully redeemed by film’s end, yet it is implied that he does begin to turn his life around. Consequences are paid and justice is ultimately served in this intense, violent action film. Jim never seems to fully admit to his wrongful past, though. “The Gunman” appears to portray the theme of assassin vs. assassin. Yet, one is better than the other. The message is subtle, but it is still problematic.

God’s Word speaks strongly against murder, sexual immorality and adultery. 1 John 3:15 (ESV) applies greatly to “The Gunman”:

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

Life is a gift from God, yet it can easily be taken away. Life is too short for sheer hatred and longing to take another’s life. Of course, justice needs to be served. But it is hard to see a clear message of justice within the thin plot of the “The Gunman.” After all, “…Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19b).

Adultery is on clear display and is shown without any consequence. “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32). Too bad Jim did not pay closer attention to the Ten Commandments. Yet again, Hollywood would not acknowledge that blatant murder and adultery cause one’s life to collapse.

I strongly advise that all audience’s take a pass on “The Gunman.” With hardly any redeeming qualities, graphic violence, strong language, and immorality on display, there is no reason to subject yourself to this immoral and boring film. Here’s a question I was left with after viewing “The Gunman.” Was evil being repaid with evil, or was justice really being served? As I mentioned above, Jim never seemed to be fully redeemed, but relieved. 1 Peter 3:9 (NIV) comes to mind:

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

“The Gunman” portrays an ex-assassin fighting for his own life and for the protection of the ones he loves. But is his focus on sheer survival or on making a life-altering change that addresses the sins and faults of his former life?

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go.

First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” —Matthew 5:21-25 (ESV)

Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Negative—It’s the poor script, the thin dialog, the dull acting by Penn, and the contrived feel of the movie, that all add up to one you should pass by in a hurry. Penn is trying to grab some of Liam Neeson’s career revival magic that he has exploited in “Taken” and several other recent action flicks. Penn fails on all levels. Liam is a great actor, while Penn is a one dimensional bore.

Even tho the movie is terrible, decent performances do abound… all except for Penn’s. His laid back zombie acting approach within an action adventure movie didn’t work. Penn is trying to look cool at the dance, and all his best moves are dull and insipid. He does not change his expression 3x in the entire movie. When he is killing the next bad guy, or making love with his girl… same exact dead expression. His face looks like its frozen in time or stuck on Botox. Pass on this one folks…
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
L. Cooper, age 50 (USA)
Movie Critics
…There’s an angry-saint complex to “The Gunman,” and you will not be surprised to learn that the title character is the creation of Sean Penn. …[1½/4]
Kyle Smith, New York Post
…the movie’s veiled indictment of multinational corporate interests that generate unrest in Third World nations for their own financial gain (undoubtedly a factor motivating Penn’s participation in the film) also falls somewhat flat, taking a back seat to the shoot-’em-up histrionics. …
Steve Davis, The Austin Chronicle
…This humorless action film becomes unintentionally camp by the end…
Leslie Felperin, Variety
…Sean Penn smokes, glowers and shows off his knotty naked torso in this vain, risible misfire of a thriller about a reformed killer… [1/4]
Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail
…the actor's sanctimonious bid to be the next Liam Neeson… Sometimes a movie is so manifestly ill-conceived that the best one can do is throw up one’s hands in surrender and acknowledge the truth: It is impossible to indict this film as thoroughly as it indicts itself. …
Christopher Orr, The Atlantic
…The best excuse for watching “The Gunman” is Penn. His first mainstream leading role in a decade is worthy of comparisons to Matt Damon in the “Bourne” movies; yet it’s also disappointingly shorn of the humor and humanity of which this great actor is capable. …
Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
…Bad writing, in the main, although he and Morel do their level best to turn pulp into gold and occasionally shows signs of the action movie that could have been. … [2/4]
Peter Howell, Toronto Star Newspapers
…there’s absolutely nothing new here, except for a sequence set at a bullfighting ring… The movie's half-hearted attempt to give the story some political bite is drowned out by the gunfire…
Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

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