TUCSON, Ariz. — There's a ton of talent involved in making the silly Netflix action flick "The Gray Man," but almost no effort.
Both clearly operating the mode of cashing their paychecks and phoning in their performances, Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans play a pair of skilled, loose-cannon spies who swap insults, bullets, and knife slashes.
Both actors could play roles like this in their sleep, and that's exactly what they do here.
It's tough to blame them because the script is so lifeless and stale that it seems like it was written by an automated program that stitched cliches from 1990s action movies.
It's one of those films that seems so cynically concocted by a screenwriting committee that it's baffling that it's based on a book.
The story follows Gosling as a convict who is recruited by the CIA to do some off-the-books work, while Evans plays a conniving, off-kilter former colleague of his who seems bent on taking him out.
The brother director team of Anthony and Joe Russo, who made "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame," show little of the creativity or feel for orchestrating compelling action scenes.
The movie might be considered a step back for the directors, but they're so well-established that a clear cash-in such as this won't do much to deflate their reputations.
Luckily for the Russos, Gosling and Evans are both so skilled that there's a certain plug-and-play value they provide by simpling appearing onscreen together.
Whenever they're onscreen together, the stars radiate electricity that lifts the stiff material above its meager focus to something halfway compelling.
While the film has few surprises at play, it rarely bores.
The by-the-numbers action movie is as innocuous as it is unchallenging, making it a tough movie to hate.
Apathy is the most severe emotion the movie sparks as "The Gray Man" fades to black.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.