The Gray Man Is A Small Part Of A Broader Russo Brothers Plan

One could paint the Russo Brothers in very different lights, depending on how you look at them. From one angle, they've directed several Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, two of which currently rank among the top five highest-grossing films ever. But from another angle, they've co-founded AGBO, a production company that's backed such audacious indie movies as "Assassination Nation" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once." It's why, for all the flack one could give them (one meaning "me" here) for churning out boilerplate genre movies, one must also give them credit for using their influence to aid non-household-name filmmakers in realizing their visions.

Their latest movie, "The Gray Man," serves as the Russo Brothers' return to directing $200 million action-thrillers after a not-so-well-received detour into mid-budget territory with 2021's "Cherry." It's a project the siblings have been working on for years, going back to when Charlize Theron was attached to star. Their hope is to use the Netflix movie to jump-start a franchise in the vein of the "Jack Ryan" or "Bourne" films or whatever globe-trotting, star-studded property you prefer (although I put my foot down at "Red Notice"). Even so, the Russo Brothers claim their plans for the future involve much more than big-budget action fare. 

Speaking to SYFY Wire, Anthony Russo explained:

"This was something that had been gestating for a long time. And as we get the company up and going, we're doing a lot of world-building with [our longtime writers Christopher] Markus and [Stephen] McFeely. Those projects take a very long time. We've got some special things along those lines coming, but because this movie had been in our lives previously, it was more accessible to us on a creative level, so it seemed like the right time to make this one."

The Russo Brothers enjoy making 'commercial movies'

Unless you're a Steven Spielberg-type, the odds are decent you'll end up having to take a "One for Me, One for Them" approach to making movies in Hollywood (and even Spielberg can struggle to secure financing these days). That means trading off between films with broad commercial appeal and those that are fairly esoteric or much more limited in terms of the crowd they're most likely to attract. The Russo Brothers are well aware of this, having been mentored early in their careers by Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney. As that duo knows all-too-well: If you wanna make a "Solaris," you also gotta make an "Ocean's Twelve."

That's not to say the latter kind of film is inherently bad, of course. Likewise, Joe Russo assured SYFY Wire he and his brother are just as comfortable making "commercial movies" as they are other types of films:

"Anthony and I've spent a decade making commercial movies. We enjoy it. It's not torturous to us. We actually can infuse modern thematics into it. 'The Gray Man' is a movie that's simply a parable about good and evil. It's two killers who are two immovable objects that are on a collision course with one another, not unlike the world that we're in today. One of them leans away from humanity, one of them leans toward humanity. We're gonna see who wins."

If the Russo Brothers directing "The Gray Man" makes it easier for them and AGBO to back movies like "Everything Everywhere All at Once" (call it their own way of "leaning toward humanity"), I'll take it.

"The Gray Man" hits theaters July 15, 2022. It will begin streaming on Netflix a week later.