Netflix’s most expensive film to date is an attempt by the Russo brothers to out-bedazzle Bond. It stars Ryan Gosling as CIA assassin Court Gentry aka “Sierra Six” (Why Six? “007 was taken”). Part of a new breed that includes Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Six is a wry, sensitive action hero willing to have his ass repeatedly saved by a resourceful female (Ana de Armas’ ambitious spy co-ordinator, Dani), who’s both incredibly sexy and roughly his age. If Six conquers the world, expect Bond bigwigs (currently deciding on new directions for the brand) to take note.
The fact that Gosling hasn’t been seen in a movie since 2018 is all part of the thrill. His Stan Laurel eyes; that James Dean mouth. Gosling’s laconic style has been much missed and is ruthlessly exploited by the canny Russos from the second we see sweaty Florida jail-bird Gentry being recruited by the CIA’s Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton).
Like the geezer in Drive, Six chews on a toothpick and wears the kind of quote unquote trashy garb that shows off his beauty better than any Savile Row outfit. His clothes, are skimpier than the ones worn by De Armas. In fact, one suit makes her look like an eighteenth century armchair. How’s that for a turnaround? We’re meant to fancy both characters (and we do; they’re equally lovely) but it’s Six’s body we’re encouraged to ogle.
He spends most of the movie running round the globe, reacting to taunts from smug Harvard-boy sociopath Lloyd (Chris Evans), who’s been hired by a corrupt CIA official (Bridgerton’s Rege-Jean Page) to get rid of our hero, along with incriminating evidence. Surprise surprise, Six knows Too Much, and he feels duty-bound to protect Fitzroy’s niece (Julia Butters; the electrifying tween in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), kidnapped by Lloyd’s men for leverage.
That Lloyd never actually uses his trump card on Six is somewhat distracting (Lloyd’s supposed to be an evil genius; a more fitting label would be “Evil Cretin”). But why carp when this tashe-wearing lunatic is racing around in Freddie Mercury trousers, quoting Schopenhauer? The Russos frequently put astute words in their naughty character’s mouth, which is a smart move. When Fitzroy uses the word “preternatural”, Lloyd gasps and says, “That’s an arsehole word!” Lloyd is basically the funnest bad guy since the last one Evans played (in Knives Out).
There are nine ginormous set-pieces. Only two make an impression. Call it the Top Gun: Maverick effect, but CGI carnage just doesn’t cut it like it used to. Celebrities doing their own stunts, that’s what we want. And that’s what it feels like we get in a major punch-up involving a Tamil agent (Tamil super-star, Dhanush), and an encounter betweeen Six and Lloyd. Both sequences are filmed with an attention to detail that’s haunting. A man is stabbed multiple times as the sun rises in Croatia; Visconti would be envious of the way the light hits those wounds.
At one point, Lloyd tells Six, “I get it! You’re glib!” This is not a film weighed down by the need to be deep. But, dear Lloyd, it’s a hoot.
122mins, cert 15
In selected cinemas from July 15; on Netflix from July 22