‘Abs As Tight As His Grimace’: Sean Penn’s ‘The Gunman,’ As The Critics Described It

Last week saw the release of Run All Night, a non-Taken Taken movie starring Liam Neeson, directed by a man (Jaume Collet-Serra) who has now directed three separate non-Taken Taken movies (NTTs). This week brings us another NTT movie, directed by original Taken director Pierre Morel. The Taken franchise hasn’t just grown, it’s metastasized. In any case, the question remains: Are you down with NTTs? (I dunno may be!)

Of course, this one has a new star. I guess the thinking behind The Gunman was that they could reinvigorate the concept with Sean Penn. Spicoli’s Last Stand, as I like to call it (Penn is actually credited as a co-writer and producer). Sadly, I couldn’t catch it myself, so I can’t weigh in on whether it worked. But at the very least, I figured it would spawn many resigned summary grafs written by bored film critics. So once again, I wondered if we could recreate the entire movie using nothing but review summary. Remember, all of these are direct quotes. Here we go!

Chapter 1: Honeymoon In The Congo

The film starts in the Congo, where the mineral-rich country is being strip-mined by international conglomerates while guerrilla warfare between the country’s factions is leaving a trail of blood. (LA Times)

Early scenes establish Penn as Jim Terrier, (Globe And Mail)

(Jim Corgi probably didn’t sound tough enough) (Chicago Tribune)

…a grizzled NGO security consultant enjoying a fling with pretty young doctor Annie (Jasmine Trinca) (Globe And Mail)

In a Congo bar, Javier Bardem looks on jealously as Terrier and Annie trade kisses (cut to Bardem’s envious, hurting mug again, and again). (Philadelphia Inquirer)

They barely have time to make the mattress groan before (Toronto Star)

…it emerges that Jim and his buddy Felix are really hired killers working for evil mining interests. (Globe and Mail)

Felix has the power to put Terrier in the line of fire and in short order he does. (LA Times)

Jim is tasked as “designated trigger” in a plot against the DRC’s mines minister (Toronto Star)

…plunging the country into further chaos that benefits the corporations bleeding Congo of its mineral wealth. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Because Terrier is chosen to take the shot, he must immediately flee the country, leaving behind his lover. (San Jose Mercury News)

Since Terrier asks Felix to take care of Annie, we have to endure watching a smart, passionate woman who needs baby-sitting fall in love with whichever man pays most attention to her. (San Jose Mercury News)

Chapter 2: Surfing In The Congo

Eight years later, Jim, back in Congo, now apparently a real aid worker (San Jose Mercury News/Globe and Mail)

…helping install wells in the region to ensure villages have fresh water (LA Times)

When we meet him, he’s out surfing, to the amazement of the locals. (London Evening Standard)

After which Sean jogs athletically back to the aid workers’ compound in his swimming gear. (The Guardian)

“Lots of clean water for my people!” marvels an appreciative young black man. (London Evening Standard)

Machete-wielding assassins come for him while he’s digging a well (London Evening Standard)

men with machetes and assault rifles shouting “Where’s the white man?” (NY Times)

But he does for them instead (London Evening Standard)

…then he sets off to London to find out who ordered the hit. (London Evening Standard)

Chapter 3: Retribution In London

Cox (Mark Rylance) is now a top executive at the company that contracted them for that fateful job. (

Everyone besides Terrier and one old colleague, Stanley (Ray Winstone), is now a sporting designer suit and operating out of a high-rise. (LA Times)

“I did some bad things,” Jim says (USA Today)

“The past is the past, my friend,” Cox (Mark Rylance) tells him.

Surely he’s being followed, so why not wear a camo backpack, a flak jacket, and the kind of black shades favored by Navy SEALS as he zigs and zags on the bustling sidewalks? (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Chapter 4: The Trouble With Brain Trouble

Penn’s character is, literally, brain-damaged –  (Newark Star-Ledger)

…not only plagued by guilt for the “bad things” he did in the Congo in 2006, but also suffering from headaches, blurry vision, and nausea. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

an increase of plaque build up in his brain. (Hitfix)

He gets a CAT scan. (Philadelphia Inquirer) A doc diagnoses him with “post-concussion syndrome,” (The Star)

but the symptoms only seem to occur when it’s necessary to let the villain get away. (Newark Star-Ledger)

Chapter 5: Getting His Groove Back In Barcelona

Then it’s on to Barcelona, Spain, where Felix heads a highly lucrative nonprofit. (LA Times)

He does not look happy when Terrier reappears on the scene. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Felix is now married to Annie. Her somewhat dim explanation? “If a firefighter saves you from a fire, there is a debt…” (London Evening Standard)

But if you think she has forgotten the hot American spy who lied to her, dumped her and plunged Central Africa into chaos by killing on behalf of evil corporations, you would be wrong. Jim shows up in Barcelona (Salon)

…and when they lay eyes on each other, they instantly reconnect passionately.  (USA Today)

It helps that the handsome Felix is inexplicably nasty to her and has been jealous of Jim all these years. (USA Today)

She absolutely cannot wait to jump on top of him, steal a cool ‘60s roadster and head out on an impulsive road trip (Salon)

Chapter 6: Topless Tanning

Sean Penn smokes, glowers and shows off his knotty naked torso (Globe And Mail)

Penn, at 54, is ripped. Very, very ripped. (Associated Press)

…many shirtless scenes (Newark Star-Ledger)

…his splendid torso, so stunningly lithe and muscular, give or take a few knotted veins… (London Evening Standard)

….muscle and straining sinew (UK Times)

…numerous moments where he takes off his shirt to show off his ripped arms (

His new, abnormally inflated arms. (Minnesota Star-Tribune)

….camera lovingly lingers over his impressive pecs (NPR)

…grimacing and flexing his impressive brows and well-veined biceps (NY Times)

abs as tight as his grimace… (Toronto Star)

…a Towie-bronzed and toned torso (Times UK)

the jacked, buff physique of a bodybuilder (Miami Herald)

his Peter Pan-like body (The Independent)

the terrifying pharmaceutical and/or bodybuilding regimen (Salon)

It’s called The Gunman but it should be called The Shirtoffman. (The Guardian)

If this action hero thing doesn’t work out for him, he could always apply to be in the next Magic Mike sequel. (Toronto Star)

Chapter 7: Revenge of Leatherface

Penn looks like Robert de Niro’s humourless younger brother. (London Evening Standard)

…decades of hard smoking (Toronto Star)

his leathery, seamed face (London Evening Standard)

a glum, sour-faced sociopath (Daily Mirror)

leathery and masculine, redolent of stale cologne and weary bravado, (NY Times)

a dead ringer for longtime NBA coach Pat Riley. (Salon)

No one in The Gunman looks happy. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

He also does an awful lot of business with his shades and ciggies and wears super chambray shirts (London Evening Standard)

Chapter 8: A Vacation For Killing

The remainder of the film sees Jim flying, driving and shooting his way through scenic European locations while meeting with shadowy men. (Globe and Mail)

Terrier has a meeting in an amusement park in Barcelona. And why not stand in the center of a rotating carousel, among all the little kids and parents bobbing on the candy-colored ponies? (Philadelphia Inquirer)

…a smartly directed machine-gun battle in a lush Spanish villa, another tussle in a warehouse (London Evening Standard)

…one picturesque Spanish locale after another (Hitfix)

There’s a side trip to Gibraltar (Toronto Star)

the bowels of an aquarium (Salon)

shootings, stabbings and beatings (

bullets have predictable trajectories and to-die-for Alpha Romeo roadsters are found for the taking. (Toronto Star)

Penn’s muscles ripple as he kicks butt (AP)

Hot girls, hot cars and “white people in hot weather” locations… (Salon)

Penn is consistently outnumbered three-to-one, four-to-one, six-to-one – and wins every time. (Newark Star-Ledger)

…snapping necks and detonating explosive devices and monologuing about the inhumanity of it all. (Chicago Tribune)

Minions are slaughtered. Cellphones are dialed. Interpol is invoked. (NY Times)

Bombs explode with promiscuous abandon. (Washington Post)

Veins and wrinkles rippling his face as he pulls the trigger (Boston Globe)

A riled-up Penn thrashes an aging motherly type with a fist to her skull. She doesn’t die right away. (Minnesota Star-Tribune)

…there is an extended and none-too-clear metaphor about a treehouse (

…a loopy exchange with Elba that will go down in the annals of bad screenwriting as “the tree house speech.” (Toronto Star)

Chapter 9: A Bullfight Because They’re In Spain

The climax takes place in a bullfight ring. (Tolucan Times)

One of the animals busts loose and goes on a rampage. (Miami Herald)

People are running around the crowded arena waving their guns willy-nilly without anyone noticing, a tortured visual link between Terrier and the bull is established (Roger

Terrier and the toro triumphing simultaneously. (London Evening Standard)

Even though the location of the film is Barcelona and Barcelona does not allow bullfighting. (Tolucan Times)

See, wasn’t that almost like being there? I don’t know what it says for the movie, but this might’ve been the most fun I’ve had making one of these posts.

Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. You can find more of his work on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.