For years, I've had an idea for a screenplay called "The Gray Man." The title is a reference to a nickname of one Albert Fish. Fish was a notorious serial killer who had a penchant for eating children. He was also a sado-masochist who would routinely stick pins into his testicles. Allegedly, he would also ball up a piece of cloth, insert it into his anus, and set it aflame from time to time. Up until now, filmmakers have been afraid to touch this story. My screenplay was going to be a unique conversation piece, but I've been beaten to the punch. Such is life. As it turns out, The Gray Man is a swell biopic that maneuvers around sensitive subject matter with class and panache.
Patrick Bauchau is fucking disturbing as Albert Fish. Frankly, he doesn't look much like the real McCoy, but frankly, it doesn't matter. His performance is uneasy and composite. It's such a complex role because Fish needs to seem as reticent as his victims on top of being a threatening presence. Somehow, Bauchau does a masterful job of juggling these disparate identities. Jack Conley gives a sturdy, full-bodied performance as Will King, the detective assigned to the case. This isn't a suspenseful murder mystery or a blood-tingling "chase" movie. King is merely there to give the script a protagonist, and while his character isn't terribly deep, he's a cool guy. If you know anything about the case, you'll know how The Gray Man ends, which is the only thing that holds this "true crime" narrative - and others like it - back.
Still, the plot is engrossing. Fish is a fascinating person, and director Scott Flynn finds a way to communicate his sick fetishes to the viewer without making a low-brow exploitation flick. The Gray Man is nauseating without being overtly gory, disquieting without being sensationalistic. I wish I could have made this film. Honestly, my version wouldn't be all that different. If you're into "true crime" cinema, but you hate films like Ted Bundy and Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, The Gray Man is worth adding to your Netflix queue.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 7:32 PM