Netflix has big plans for ‘The Gray Man.’ Fans might disagree.

In the end, “The Gray Man” seemed like a fitting title. It’s a forgettable, unremarkable blockbuster that blends into the background.

“The Gray Man,” a CIA thriller based on Mark Greaney’s 2009 novel (and the first in the long-running “Gray Man” series of novels), is the upcoming huge blockbuster film on Netflix. It is painfully evident that the film is meant to serve as the catalyst for the beginning of a brand-new series geared toward a male audience. Think of “Mission: Impossible,” “James Bond,” and “Fast & Furious.” Unfortunately, this film’s predictable plot and forgettable action scenes just provide for interesting background noise rather than a riveting big-screen fiesta.

The year has not been easy for Netflix. Being the pioneer in a brand-new form of entertainment production and delivery has a drawback: Eventually the competitors will appear. The epidemic, which seems to have caused a subscriber bubble, made matters worse. (Shareholders don’t appear to grasp Newtonian physics, which states that things rise and fall over time.) The second, more serious problem, which Netflix is hampered by, is best illustrated by “The Gray Man,” one of the most costly blockbuster films it has ever supported. Both lack a distinct personality.
To be clear, “The Gray Man” possesses every quality that defines a successful summer movie. Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Rege-Jean Page, Ana de Armas, and Jessica Henwick are A-list celebrities with a solid resume. Its directors, The Russo Brothers, are responsible for blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame,” two of the all-time highest-grossing films. Best-selling books served as the inspiration for the film. There are enormous explosions, exciting stunts, and stunning computer-generated imagery that looks identical to reality.

However, given that “The Gray Man” is a blockbuster that fades away, the name feels finally appropriate. It is unremarkable, inoffensive, and bland. Gosling, the film’s star, has never really had a distinct personality, but in this case he disappears into the background of the narrative. Unexpectedly, Chris Evans is equally unremarkable, which is a marvel of self-erasure for an actor who is essentially his character. De Armas at least has more to do than she had in her James Bond appearance, but the crossover only adds to the confusion because it makes it appear as though she just stumbled in after spending time with Daniel Craig and doesn’t know how she got there.
Simply put, “The Gray Man” is the ideal $200 million film to have playing in the background while you play TwoDots on your phone or text your bestie about your summertime plans. This implies that in a certain sense, it is also the ideal Netflix movie: something that mimics other media you enjoy watching without actually requiring you to watch it.

And for almost ten years, Netflix was gracious enough to accept this. Think about how one of its first slogans was “Netflix and chill,” which makes the erroneous assumption that whatever is on television is so inoffensive that it cannot possibly ruin the atmosphere. When Hulu’s convoluted, constrained brand and Amazon’s mediocre streaming service were the sole rivals, this was more than sufficient. However, after competing with big-name streamers who bring a clear brand to the table, Netflix’s lack of a clear niche has become a liability. (While Disney+ and HBO Max are the primary competitors, Peacock and Paramount+ instantly bring to mind NBC sitcoms and “Star Trek,” respectively.)

Netflix does have several big blockbusters, but other than the word “expensive,” none of them really relate to one another. The same cannot be said of “The Crown,” which spawned a plethora of intellectual, A-list historical works, or “Stranger Things,” which has no parallel family-friendly horror successes to pair with. Even the hits “Bridgerton” and “Squid Game” could turn out to be anomalies.
The Gray Man, meanwhile, appears to share the same fate. Is it even known that it exists? There haven’t been a lot of 30-second commercial blitzes on TV or streaming, little to no promoted content on YouTube, and barely any social media mentions of it. Despite an entertainment market that is becoming increasingly noisier, Netflix has done almost nothing.

As a result, it’s possible that this film will just register as a passing memory in the minds of viewers. Maybe that’s fantastic news for a spy, but Netflix doesn’t need it right now.

 

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