July 22, 2022
“Hello, my sexy Tamil friend.”
That’s how mustachioed, tight-sweater-wearing sociopath Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) answers a call from one of his ruthless assassins, Lone Wolf (Dhanush), inexplicably pronouncing Tamil as tuh-meel. Hansen is in a Croatian-castle-turned-CIA-control-center and pulls up a video feed of Lone Wolf, who confirms he’s “tracking the target.” This one-minute scene will be fleeting to some viewers, but for many South Asian viewers, it’s the moment we’ve been waiting for — and encapsulates Dhanush’s role in The Gray Man.
Fans of Indian cinema celebrated when Netflix announced that Tamil superstar Dhanush would be part of the most expensive film in Netflix history, alongside Evans, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page. The high-octane action movie, based on the Mark Greaney book of the same name, follows ex-CIA mercenary Courtland Gentry (Gosling), known by his moniker Sierra Six, who uncovers agency secrets and is now on the run from his employer and a host of international assassins, including Dhanush’s character, Lone Wolf.
With his role in The Gray Man, Dhanush is one of the few South Indian actors to break into Hollywood. After years of watching Western media distill all South Asian movies to Bollywood, I was hyped to see one of my Kollywood favorites on the poster of a Hollywood blockbuster. But despite the anticipation, the $200 million budget, and writer-directors Anthony and Joe Russo — the brothers known for directing Captain America and Avengers films, Arrested Development, and Community — the film and Dhanush’s role are a letdown.