It’s been a while since Sean Penn has filled the big screen, and he
certainly has the “gritty” chops to play a “hit man” named Terrier, but
he’s a little less convincing in his undercover role as social worker in
Penn has obviously spent a lot of time in the gym in preparation for this
role, and he’ll need all his well-chiseled core strength to deal with the
close-quarter hand-to-hand combat against the tough hombres who are after him.
not really about CIA covert operations, though, so much as it is the competing
interests of faceless multinational corporations which specialize in mining
operations. It seems that certain
parts of central Africa are rich in mineral resources, but the years of civil
war and the decades of governmental ineptitude and corruption have combined to
create a state of permanent chaos, where only the strongest (and most ruthless)
survive. But Penn’s character is
less sympathetic because he’s in trouble not for what he did for patriotism,
but merely money, which haunts him, actually.
And he’s not the only one dealing with the demons of regret:
his friend Felix (Javier Bardem) and his friend Cox (Mark Rylance) have
both become wealthy, successful businessmen, but there’s an unpleasant edge to
both of them, as well. Worse,
Terrier seems to suffer from some post-traumatic stress disorder; concussions
caused by blows to the head in non-refereed fisticuffs, which Terrier seems to
not be able to avoid, so the intermittent blackouts continue.
None of these guys turn out to be very good about “going straight,”
which is part of the moral here: once you enter this violent world of taking
other lives, you don’t exit easily. They’re
all living in their own individual Hells. Yes,
the supposed love triangle between Felix, Annie, and Terrier makes for a
different kind of tension, but basically this one doesn’t love the love.
It loves the violence. As a
result, this movie won’t enjoy a wide churchgoing audience.
There are also noticeable production continuity miscues that decrease
enjoyment even for those of us more inured to the rough edges.
But at the very least, we have exotic locales, and not every movie
concludes with a bullfight in
Questions For Discussion:
Can those who have lived by the sword truly be happy with laying down the sword
and shield, and studying war no more?
Would forgiveness be possible for a sinner like an assassin?
If so, in addition to repentance, would you require a certain kind of
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian