Monday Morning Critic – Sean Penn, The Gunman And The Problems Of Trying To Become An Aging Action Star After 50


The one interesting thing about this weekend’s box office was that of the performance of Sean Penn’s The Gunman. It was awful, which I wrote about right here, but it was also such a pronounced box office failure that I am fairly sure that Penn’s career as an action hero probably isn’t going to take off from that particular film in the same way that Liam Neeson’s did with Taken.

Penn, never a substantial box office draw to begin with, has always been a prestige draw as opposed to a popular draw. Penn has always been an actor, not a movie star, and as such you don’t count on him to draw at the box office. You count on him to give your film the sort of significance that lends itself to awards season. It’s why The Gunman was a curious choice to begin with and the fact that the film marginally resembles the novel it was based on makes it even more curious. The novel is a violent noir mystery, adapted into a straight genre piece for the film, and as such one can see where Penn is going with it.

He wanted to make his own Blood Diamond, which was a most triumphant film, but wound up instead with something resembling Maximum Conviction.

My friend Christian Toto did write on which over 50 actors should fully embrace this type of career change but something struck me while reading that list and then watching The Gunman. While a number of actors COULD make that leap into action movie leading man category based on their acting credentials … it takes a certain type of actor past 50 for us to genuinely believe that they can save the day.

Mainly we have to be able to buy that they could actually have been on the winning end of a fist fight at some point in their lives. And Sean Penn isn’t the kind of guy we picture in the role of middle aged tough guy … but that standard could also apply to 90% of Hollywood’s working actors over the age of 50. It comes down to either having action movies in your past … or having an actual, legitimate background that lends itself to credibility. Just having the hulked up physique in a bottle isn’t enough at a certain age for the genre. You have to either earn it from years in the genre … or you have to be an age that people are more prone to overlook it.

It’s why we buy Arnold and Stallone as action heroes at this age; they have years of being action stars and thus we’ve grown to accept it. Arnold can make fun of his age in The Last Stand, or be the veteran badass in Sabotage, because he has tons of films behind him in those parts. If we wanted to be super critical we could point out that Arnold’s only bonafides as a younger man were being the greatest bodybuilder ever, which is about as useful as a football bat in determining toughness, but in the ’80s just having a jacked up physique was enough because most actors weren’t yoked up he-men. It’s also why we buy younger actors in action roles much more than older ones. They don’t have the decades of film for us to have made a firm decision on their fitness as an action hero. It’s the perk of youth; when you’re 25 and have only a handful of film credits at most it’s easier to step into a role saving the day that doesn’t involve wearing tights or having super powers.

Penn had neither of those.

It may not be the only reason why The Gunman failed … but it certainly didn’t help.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

Joe Corey wrote about New Year’s Evil right here.

I reviewed The Red Road, a Sundance channel show.

Former Inside Pulse staffer ML Kennedy has a book about werewolves and stuff. Check it out.

And now on MMC … we watch Legos go all Matrix on us.

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Get Hard – Will Ferrell is about to go to prison. He hires Kevin Hart as his prison consultant so that he can survive Club Fed.

See it – Hart has been fairly solid, all things considered, and Ferrell needs someone who can match his energy. Hart just might be that guy. On paper it looks like it could be funny, especially given the R rating.

Home – Dreamworks has made an animated film about aliens or something.

Skip it – It’s not Pixar, therefore it’s most likely not worth your time.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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