Jim Terrier (Penn) is a former mercenary and assassin who now works in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with a foreign humanitarian aid organization. Jim's past catches up with him one day when a group of thugs try to kill him in a village. Terrier must find out why he is being targeted before it's game over.
First off, the most impressive aspect about Gunman is the obvious effort Penn (who also co-writes and co-produces) has put in towards building a buff physique. His Popeye-like, vein-rippled arms seem to have a life of their own. Apart from his T-shirt-tearing pectorals, Penn's real-life social causes also influence the film.
Eight years prior, Jim was the 'trigger' selected to knock off DRC's Minister of Mining, after which he had to leave the country. Accordingly, he goes, leaving his girlfriend Annie (Trinca) behind in the care of his oily associate Felix (Bardem, wasted here in more ways than one) without even so much as a proper goodbye. Felix barely manages to conceal his fist-bumping delight as he has a mad crush on Annie.
In the present day, Jim helps build water wells for the impoverished on the West African coast and all is well until the aforementioned attempt to kill him. He meets former buddy Cox (Rylance) for any leads and then heads to Spain.
At one point, an exhausted Jim gasps to Cox, "I don't want to do this shit anymore!" Wise words, as Penn is best when playing characters with far greater (Mystic River, Dead Man Walking, Milk, I Am Sam, 21 Grams etc) depth, instead. Morel also directed 2008's Liam Neeson hit Taken. So, whether by conscious design or not, some parallels are inevitable. Idris Elba gets only a cameo, where he has a sort of coded chat with Jim about building treehouses.
On the plus side, the fight scenes are unsparing, offering gore galore in graphic detail. Therefore, you'll only want to see this is if the sound of gunfire is music to your ears.