It’s the talking point of most media buzz, and it’s the first thing we should get out of the way: at somewhere around $200 million, The Gray Man (starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans) is now Netflix’s most expensive original movie. Directed by Marvel’s Joe and Anthony Russo (Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame), the film follows other attempted A-list action tentpoles for the streaming service, including Extraction ($65 million), The Old Guard ($70 million), and Red Notice ($150 million). (And since we’re comparing millions, it’s worth noting that The Gray Man’s closest non-streaming produced film comparison this year is Marvel’s Thor: Love and Thunder, at $250 million, making Netflix just about as willing to rain movie cash as Disney.)
The budget matters. The Gray Man represents something of a gamble on the part of Netflix, which has lost one million subscribers this quarter (still lower than expected), an anticipated decline that has already led to hundreds of layoffs at the company.
That gamble: inject enough huge tentpole properties into viewers’ accounts that they’ll watch—and stick around to watch more.
And there are precedents; big movies have paid off in the past. Both Extraction and Red Notice brought in massive viewer numbers, and both of these properties have been given sequels. (At a much lower budget, and with rated-R stylistic action, Extraction may be a bit of the odd one out, production-wise.)
Audiences appear to want popcorn action, which is why Netflix bought the Russos’ The Gray Man—and why they’re also putting $200 million into another Russo production, The Electric State.
It’s too soon to tell whether this strategy will pay off, but it does suggest a forward-looking film cycle, where Netflix hopes to run several action franchises simultaneously. This is good news for fans looking for a sequel to The Gray Man, a film with DNA reminiscent of several other action franchises—including the Bourne movies, the Bond movies, and the Mission Impossible movies.
Here’s what we know about the future of The Gray Man.
Is The Gray Man 2 Happening?
In a word: probably.
Scott Stuber, Netflix’s head of global film told The New York Times he’s been hoping to help the company break into big franchise action films since he arrived five years ago. Stuber greenlit the Bourne franchise while at Universal Pictures. The Gray Man appears to be an obvious repeat of that spy-thriller formula.
“We haven’t really been in this genre yet,” Mr. Stuber said, “If you’re going to do it, you want to deal with filmmakers who over the last decade have created some of the biggest franchises and the biggest action movies in our business.”
Hence Netflix’s recruitment of the Russos.
Internet chatter already hints at prequel and sequel installments in the works—in particular, a prequel starring Chris Evans and written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Deadpool). This hasn’t yet been confirmed by Netflix. If true, it would signal a strong level of investment in the franchise, i.e., faith that folks will actually watch the first Gray Man.
The first installment certainly sets up a franchise, having introduced several expandable characters and plot points—Billy Bob Thornton as a CIA operations lead, Ryan Gosling as an assassin over a dozen years after his recruitment, Ana de Armas and Regé-Jean Page as a current operation team, and other somewhat under-explored assassins like Chris Evans’ and Avik San’s characters. That’s not including a vague CIA chief known as “the old man.”
The ending to The Gray Man also sets up inter-agency drama and governmental conspiracy that will continue into future installments.
In other words: there’s lots of sequel and spin-off potential. Whether this happens likely depends on how many people click “unsubscribe.”
This article was first published in Men’s Health US.