Netflix’s next big blockbuster film is The Gray Man, a CIA thriller based on the 2009 novel by Mark Greaney (and the first in the long-running Gray Man novel series). It’s painfully obvious that the film aims to kickstart the launch of a brand new franchise with male audiences. Think James Bond, Mission: Impossible and Fast & Furious. Unfortunately, this film’s no-nonsense plot and boring action sequences make for exciting background noise but not an engaging bonanza on the big screen.
There’s a downside to being at the forefront of a new form of entertainment production and delivery: eventually the competition will emerge.
Netflix isn’t having the easiest of years. There’s a downside to being at the forefront of a new form of entertainment production and delivery: eventually the competition will emerge. This has been made worse by the pandemic, which appears to have created a subscriber bubble. (Shareholders don’t seem to understand Newtonian physics; that what goes up eventually comes down.) But Netflix is hampered by a second, larger problem, illustrated by “The Gray Man,” one of the most important expensive blockbuster projects it has funded to date. Nobody has a defined personality.
To put it bluntly, The Gray Man has all the hallmarks of a successful summer blockbuster. There are A-list stars with long track records: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Rege-Jean Page, Ana de Armas and Jessica Henwick. The Russo Brothers, their directors, have hits like Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame – two of the highest grossing films in history – under their belts. The books from which the film was adapted are bestsellers. There are massive explosions, exciting stunts, and stunning computer-generated images that are indistinguishable from reality.
And yet, ultimately, The Gray Man feels apt because it’s a blockbuster that’s going away. It’s boring, harmless and unremarkable. Lead Actor Gosling has never had a strong personality, but here he takes a backseat to his own film. Chris Evans is surprisingly just as unremarkable, a feat of self-effacement for an actor practically defined by his personality. De Armas is at least busier than her James Bond outing, but the crossover is just for confusion as she appears to have walked in from Daniel Craig and isn’t sure how she got here.
In short, The Gray Man is the perfect $200 million movie to have in the background while you play TwoDots on your phone or text your best friend about upcoming summer plans. In a way, that means it is Also the perfect Netflix movie: something that looks like other things you enjoy watching without actually challenging you watch it.
Netflix has big hits, but none of them have any real connection to each other other than “expensive.”
And for nearly a decade, that was kind of enough for Netflix. Consider that one of his earliest identities was “Netflix and Chill,” which assumes that everything on screen is so innocuous that it’s impossible to ruin the mood. This was perfectly adequate when it had only the muddled, limited-edition brand of Hulu and the second-biggest streaming service, Amazon, as competition. But after confronting Netflix with major streamers bringing a defined brand to the table, the lack of a defined track has become a disadvantage. (Disney+ and HBO Max are the protagonists here, but even Peacock and Paramount+ immediately conjure up images of NBC comedy and Star Trek, respectively.)
Netflix has big hits, but none of them have any real connection to each other other than “expensive.” “Stranger Things” hasn’t had any family-friendly horror hits to group with, nor has “The Crown” spawned a string of high-profile A-list historical plays. Even “Bridgerton” and “Squid Game” could turn out to be fluke hits.
Meanwhile, “The Gray Man” seems to be beating the same fate. Does anyone even know it exists? There have been no flashes of 30-second commercials on TV or streaming, next to nothing on YouTube, promoted or otherwise, and little to no mention of it on social media. Netflix has done almost the bare minimum despite an increasingly noisy entertainment landscape.
As a result, this film might end up being just an outlier in the collective public consciousness. Maybe that’s good news for a spy, but it’s the last thing Netflix needs right now.
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/netflix-big-plans-gray-man-fans-might-disagree-rcna39667 Netflix has big plans for The Gray Man. Fans might have different opinions.