The Gray Man, one of the biggest blockbusters to ever shoot in Prague, debuts on Netflix tomorrow after wrapping production in the Czech Republic almost exactly a year ago.
An action-spy adventure starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans as competing secret agents, The Gray Man only shot in Prague for about three weeks, but made a lasting impression: scenes for the film were shot across the city center, resulting in the full closure of some busy central streets for weeks at a time.
The most expensive production that Netflix has undertaken at an estimated $250 million-dollar budget, The Gray Man spent most of its time in a Los Angeles studio. Still, the Czech shoot involved the participation of tens of thousands of local extras, crew members, and others involved in the production.
Costs weren’t cut on catering for local crew and extras: services for the film on the streets included multiple food trucks with world cuisines from some of Prague’s finest caterers. Cast and crew even had their own trdelník stand on set.
The city of Prague is heavily featured in the final film. The Gray Man’s biggest action setpiece, a chase set scene featuring a Prague tram, was shot in Prague 7’s Holešovice district, across the Čechův most bridge, and by the Municipal House at Náměstí Republiky in Old Town.
Another Prague action scene in The Gray Man was shot at Jan Palach Square in the city center, across from the Rudolfinum. Scenes for the upcoming reboot of The Crow, which is now filming in Prague, also make use of the large concert hall.
For The Gray Man, an entire city square fountain set was created just for the film outside the Rudolfinum, during a shoutout between Gosling’s character, local police, and American agents. The fountain, riddled with bullet holes after the shoot, was dismantled after the movie wrapped.
Prague doesn’t only play itself in The Gray Man: it also stands in for foreign locales including Vienna, Baku and Bangkok.
Portions of The Gray Man set in Thailand were shot at Futurama Business Park in Karlín, and involved the participation of 800 extras who could pass as Southeast Asian; the city’s large Vietnamese population aided local casting agencies for the sequence.
The Gray Man stars Gosling as Sierra Six, a CIA-sponsored assassin betrayed and hunted down across the globe by a team of agents led by Evans’ Lloyd Hansen.
Along the way, Six teams up with a sympathetic agent played by Ana de Armas. The all-star cast for The Gray Man also features Dhanush, Jessica Henwick, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfre Woodard, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, and Regé-Jean Page.
A week ahead of its debut on Netflix worldwide, The Gray Man opened in U.S. cinemas to mixed reviews. While the Prague action scenes drew praise, the story, penned by Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely, from the original novel by Mark Greaney, drew criticism for its thinly-sketched characters.
“There’s nothing terribly original about the storytelling,” Variety’s Peter Debruge writes in an otherwise-positive review. “Take a little of Shooter, a lot of John Wick, add a dash of Jason Bourne, shaken (but not stirred) into the license-to-kill formula, and you’ve got the basic idea.”
“There’s plenty of gonzo action but no heart and no real dramatic voltage,” says Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, scoring the film two out of five stars. “The movie zooms manically from exotic industry-tax-break location to exotic industry-tax-break location, each announced on screen in huge sans serif capital letters (VIENNA, PRAGUE, BAKU).”
Note to Bradshaw: only one tax-break location was utilized for The Gray Man, thank you, and in 2022 Prague isn’t even a tax-break location any longer.
The Gray Man isn’t the first Prague-shot blockbuster to open to spotty reviews. The first Mission: Impossible movie drew mixed reactions when it opened in 1996, but went on to spawn seven sequels and become one of Hollywood’s most profitable franchises, a feat Netflix and directors Joe and Anthony Russo are hoping to repeat.
Whatever their opinion of The Gray Man’s storytelling, local fans will undoubtedly enjoy spotting locations across Prague in the final film, and the sheer amount of destruction created as Gosling’s character is chased through the city center.
For viewers in the Czech Republic, The Gray Man will premiere on Netflix tomorrow, July 22, at 9:00 a.m. Prague time.