A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Gunman -- an action thriller starring Sean Penn -- has lots of bloody violence, with shooting, killing, and explosions. Characters often kill without consequence. Language includes more than one use of "f--k" and "s--t," as well as other words. There's one sex scene (though no sensitive body parts are shown) and a few other brief sexual situations (including naked male bottoms shown in passing). One minor character appears to have a drinking problem, and social drinking and smoking is shown. The movie has some buried messages about global economics and the exploitation of natural resources, but otherwise, it's a very serious and convoluted movie that most teens won't want to bother with.
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What's the story?
In 2006, former Special Forces soldier Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is paid to assassinate the minister of mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As part of the deal, he's forced to flee and leave his girlfriend, Annie (Jasmine Trinca), behind. In the present day, Jim is back working in the Congo as a humanitarian, digging wells. A band of goons attempts to kill him, and he surmises that the attack is connected to his former life. He tracks down several old colleagues -- Stanley (Ray Winstone), Cox (Mark Rylance), and Felix (Javier Bardem) -- the latter of whom married Annie in Jim's absence. Without knowing who to trust, and with time running out, Jim must stay a jump ahead of his foes to keep himself and Annie alive.
Is it any good?
While it's an admirable attempt by director Pierre Morel at a more grown-up type of entertainment, the movie winds up feeling rather leaden. Morel, best known for his lightweight, fast-paced action films for Luc Besson (District B13, Taken, and From Paris with Love), attempts THE GUNMAN on his own, adding a new kind of weight and seriousness. Penn may be one of the most dedicated and professional actors in the world, but even he can't bring a much-needed vulnerability or warmth to the project.
Not to mention that, though the tone puts more strain on the plot to be tight and relevant, it starts to feel confusing and ridiculous in spots. Morel's action directing is fast paced, but perhaps a bit clunky. His dedication to the actors, on the other hand, is strong, and the great cast members each get moments to shine; stage star Rylance in particular gives what could be a breakout performance. But even so, The Gunman overall isn't quite recommended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Gunman's violence. How did it affect you? Did it seem necessary to the plot? What message does the lack of consequences for violent behavior send?
How is drinking depicted? Which character seems to have a drinking problem? What are the indications of this? Do other characters have drinking problems?
The main character appears to be quite a bit older than his love interest. Is that OK? How would it be if the situation were reversed? How many times have you seen these situations in movies?
The movie depicts violent acts committed over valuable mining rights. Do you believe that governments or corporations would kill for profits?
Does Sean Penn's character represent an unrealistic body type?
- In theaters: March 20, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 30, 2015
- Cast: Sean Penn, Ray Winstone, Javier Bardem
- Director: Pierre Morel
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, language and some sexuality
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
For kids who love action and thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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