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Gray man takes stoic cliché and espionage way too far

Gray man takes stoic cliché and espionage way too far

Like Brad Pitt before him, Ryan Gosling continues to fall into the Hollywood "nice guy" trap.

Stoicism has always been a powerful weapon in Ryan Gosling's film arsenal. One of his most remembered films is still the 2011 thriller Drive, in which he played an unnamed stunt driver who's gorgeous behind the wheel but is a one-piece in conversation. As Officer K in Blade Runner 2049, he was literally a robotic, synthetic "replicator" designed to be devoid of emotion. In the movie First Man, astronaut Neil Armstrong is portrayed as prickly and intimidating, more willing to confront his work than any personal relationship. But as remote as he seems in each of those movies, he's always wrestled with a complex character, appropriate story stakes, and a touch of inner weirdness. His most recent leading role, in the popular Netflix action movie The Gray Man, didn't offer anything of the sort.

Once again, Gosling plays a man with no name, this time a Sierra Six assassin who carries out black operations for the CIA with ruthless efficiency. The Gray Man, based on the 2009 best-selling novel directed by the Russo brothers, arrives on Netflix (and in limited theaters) with plenty of lineage: the brothers have directed four Marvel films that are among the most successful films of all time, and they've put together a star-studded cast. About Gosling they include Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Regé-Jean Page and Alfre Woodard. But The Gray Man is a totally anonymous viewing experience, a series of set pieces and eloquent jokes devoid of personality. And personality is what really helps Gosling pop on screen.

The actor he often reminds me of is Brad Pitt, who shot to fame in the early '90s with amazing work in Thelma and Louise, bolstered by his sculpted face. But Hollywood has struggled to find good lead characters for him - Pete has appeared as a generic pretty boy in epics such as A River Runs Through It, Interview With the Vampire, Legends of the Fall, and Meet Joe Black. Instead, he shone in more unusual supporting performances in 12 Monkeys and True Romance. Pitt found the main roles that worked for him by pairing up with directors such as David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh. Their heroes had strange energy, handsome men who seemed uncomfortable with their God-given looks.

My favorite Gosling roles have the same look. He's managed to get rid of the outspoken heroes of Drive, Blade Runner 2049, and First Man, but also the devious, over-confident private investigator Holland Marsh in The Nice Guys, scum-trader Jared Vennett in The Big Short, and the kind-hearted but awkward Lars . Lars and the real girl. He was at least as interesting as a do-gooder cop in a gangster squad, and that's what the gray guy mentioned above all else. Sure enough, Six, a government-trained assassin, has a bleak tinge. But the Russians immediately told the public that he was essentially a moral spy. In the first mission filmed, Six stopped shooting at his target because a child was nearby; Pressed by his handler not to worry about collateral damage, and discover corruption in the unit, he quickly becomes a rogue.

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